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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History was made at the 2020 Youth Media Awards in Philadelphia. A graphic novel has won the John Newbery Medal for the first time in its nearly 100-year history as Jerry Craft earned the honor for New Kid. Kadir Nelson won the Caldecott Medal for The Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander. That book was also named a Newbery Honor title. Craft earned the Coretta Scott King Author Award for New Kid as well. The Printz Medal was awarded to A.S. King for Dig. It was a huge day for graphic novels beyond the historic Newbery win. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell was named a Printz Honor book. In awards other than the Big Three, graphic novels continued to collect accolades. The Asian/Pacific American Awards honored two graphic novels: Stargazing by Jen Wang won for Children’s Literature and They Called Us Enemy written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and illustrated by Harmony Becker won in the Young Adult Literature category. In Waves by AJ Dungo and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe won Alex Awards and Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka won the Odyssey Award for best audiobook.
Amid alarming reading problems for the state's youngest students, Louisiana ranks sixth in the nation in adopting scientific methods for instructing prospective teachers how to teach reading, a national report released Monday says. Nine traditional undergraduate and graduate programs earned an A grade. Programs at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux and the University of New Orleans were singled out. The results were issued at a time when reading problems — a longtime education challenge in Louisiana — are getting renewed attention. A state report earlier this month said only 43% of kindergarten students scored at or above the needed benchmark, compared with 54% of first graders, 56% of second graders and 53% of third graders.The review was done by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., that promotes what it calls a modernized teaching workforce.
New data and analysis from the National Council on Teacher Quality finds significant progress on the science of reading instruction in teacher preparation. For the first time since NCTQ began publishing program ratings in its 2013 Teacher Prep Review, the number of programs in the nation to embrace reading science has crossed the halfway mark, with 51 percent of 1,000 evaluated traditional elementary teacher preparation programs across the country now earning an A or B grade for their coverage of the key components of the science of reading—up from just 35 percent seven years ago.
More than 60 percent of students with disabilities spend most of their time in general education classrooms, but general education teachers are often not equipped with the tools to meet their needs. Teacher preparation programs have failed to help teaching candidates develop the necessary skills and knowledge to serve all students because they "do not center students with disabilities in their curriculum," a new report from the Center for American Progress concludes. That lack of focus has led to wide gaps in high school graduation rates, standardized test scores, and access to college and career opportunities between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, the report argues. The report cites a survey from the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Understood.org that found that less than 1 in 5 general education teachers feel "very well prepared" to teach students with mild-to-moderate learning disabilities, including ADHD and dyslexia.
A strong concern around readiness assessments is the lack of acknowledgement of multilingual students, who represent nearly one in four children in our nation’s public schools. Monolingual assessments often fail to accurately capture the abilities of DLL students, incorrectly presuming that a child’s inability to understand English is reflective of their overall skills. Many competencies, such as phonological awareness and mathematics, transfer easily between languages and needn’t be retaught if already mastered. Misunderstanding the full scope of DLL children’s abilities can potentially impede their academic growth.Furthermore, English-only screening assessments may fail to identify students with disabilities at a time when early intervention is crucial. Some states have already taken steps to create assessments that more accurately capture young DLL student’s knowledge.
Pura Belpré was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. Once upon a time, long before she roamed the stacks of the New York City Public Library, she grew up in Cidra, Puerto Rico. Even as a child, she loved sharing stories – many had been first told to her by her abuela. In a 1992 profile published in The Library Quarterly, Belpré was quoted as saying: “I grew up in a home of storytellers…during school recess some of us would gather under the shade of the tamarind tree, and then we would take turns telling stories”. That affinity for stories would take her far from the tamarind trees and eventually to the streets of 1920s New York City.
Decades of research have shown that teaching explicit, systematic phonics is the most reliable way to make sure that young students learn how to read words. Yet an Education Week analysis of nationally representative survey results found that professors who teach early-reading courses are introducing the work of researchers and authors whose findings and theories often conflict with one another, including some that may not be aligned with the greater body of scientific research. For example, nearly the same number of professors say they introduce the work of Louisa Moats as the ones who cite Gay Su Pinnell. But the two are in different camps on reading instruction. Moats advocates for systematic, explicit phonics instruction, while Pinnell and her frequent collaborator Irene Fountas have written curriculum that includes some phonics instruction, but also encourages students to guess unfamiliar words based on context. “It really reflects two very different approaches to teaching reading,” said Susan B. Neuman, a professor in early childhood education and literacy development at New York University’s school of education. “Do I think that preservice people are getting a mixed message? I think very definitely they are.”
Reading performance has remained virtually stagnant for decades, with nearly two-thirds of the country's fourth- and eighth-grade students reading below levels deemed "proficient" on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Why is this happening? Gail Lovette, an assistant professor in the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education and Human Development took a deep dive into the issue. Lovette theorized that the problem extended beyond teachers, so in the fall of 2019 she and UVA graduate student Kenni Alden surveyed the regulations of 51 state educational agencies. Lovette—who spent 10 years as a teacher and administrator before coming to Curry as doctoral student in 2010—wanted to see what, if any, expertise in reading development and instruction was required in each state to receive initial or renewed licensure as administrators.
Family child care, or licensed home-based care, is a critical component of the child care landscape. Family child care (FCC) is a common care environment for infants and toddlers, children from diverse linguistic backgrounds, children from families with low incomes, and children in rural communities. One promising program that strengthens FCC providers’ knowledge while encouraging their continued participation in the workforce is the Early Educator Apprenticeship Program in California, highlighted in a new report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), which builds on much of the work New America has done on early childhood apprenticeships. The trilateral program operates a Head Start Apprenticeship, an Early Educator Center-Based Apprenticeship, and a Family Child Care (FCC) Apprenticeship, specifically designed for FCC providers.
A new report released today by the International Literacy Association (ILA) reveals that only 34% of teachers surveyed felt equipped by their teacher preparation programs with the skills needed for effective early reading instruction. Early literacy skills and equity emerged as top critical topics from those surveyed; access to high-quality books and content, professional learning opportunities and effective instructional strategies for struggling readers rounded out the top five.For example, though the majority of teachers reported that both phonics and phonemic awareness were covered in their preservice programs, the percentage who said their program did an “excellent” or “very good” job of preparing them to use these methods was low—27% for phonics and 26% for phonemic awareness.
News Literacy Project (NLP) and the E.W. Scripps Company have partnered to launch National News Literacy Week (NNLW) from January 27 to 31. Calling news literacy a "fundamental life skill," the partners aim to educate the public about the importance of news literacy and the role of the free press in America. All next week, educators and the public will have free access to lessons from the NLP’s Checkology virtual classroom and its lessons and resources. Each day focuses on a different theme. “News literacy education helps young people become active participants in their communities,” NLP’s founder and CEO Alan C. Miller said.
The winners of the 2020 Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children's Literature are Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell in the teen (age 13-18) category and The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman in the younger readers (age 9-13) category. In these fifth annual Walter Awards—which honor diverse authors whose work features "diverse main characters and address diversity in a meaningful way"—there were also two honor books in each category. For teens: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi and With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. For younger readers: A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée and Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga. The awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, in March.
To teach a love of reading, Corrina Reamer starts by writing. Each fall, she pens a letter to her 11th grade English class at T.C. Williams High School International Academy in Northern Virginia. She tells the students who she is: where she’s from, the jobs she has held, which TV shows she favors. Then, she asks for a reply. “I read all of those letters,” Reamer said. Over the next few weeks, “I think about it. I come up with three-to-five books for each kid, and we sit down, face-to-face, to read the jackets.” She picks the possibilities from a meticulously curated library of almost 1,000 books she houses on shelves painted turquoise and burnt-orange in her third-floor classroom — a library she paid for through online fundraisers and grants. Reamer, 45, offers the teens texts meant to feel familiar: The characters might resemble her students, practice their religion, speak their language.
A new player has moved into the curriculum review market: Nonprofit consulting group Student Achievement Partners announced this week that it is going to start evaluating literacy curricula against reading research. The group released its first report on Thursday: an evaluation of the Units of Study for Teaching Reading in grades K-5, a workshop style program designed by Lucy Calkins and published through the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. The seven literacy researchers who reviewed the program gave it a negative evaluation, writing that it was "unlikely to lead to literacy success for all of America's public schoolchildren." Children who come to school "already reading or primed to read" could likely stay on track with the program, the researchers write. "However, children who need additional practice opportunities in a specific area of reading or language development likely would not." They found that Units of Study doesn't provide enough systematic, explicit instruction in foundational reading skills, and that there weren't consistent opportunities for students to experience complex text and build background knowledge.
If publicly available data are any indication, English learners (ELs) are perpetually lagging behind their native English-speaking peers academically. Indeed, report after report show that ELs consistently under-perform when it comes to statewide tests, graduation rates, course grades, and more. Notably, though, new research suggests the bleak tale of the languishing EL may be misguided. One study of EL students in Chicago Public Schools, recently published by the University of Chicago Consortium of Research, found that ELs who achieved English proficiency by eighth grade actually fared as well as their peers who had never been classified as ELs on reading tests and that they fared better than these peers on math tests, attendance, and course grades. This study is notable because it maps the performance of the same group of ELs over time, from kindergarten until after the majority of students in the group had achieved English proficiency and exited out of EL services. This is a novel and nuanced way of looking at the achievement of ELs. Typically, media and education agency data only report on the performance of current ELs who are still in the process of learning English.
When I was a classroom teacher, the return from winter break offered an annual opportunity to help my students reflect on their fall reading experiences and set personal reading goals for the year ahead. Partnering with school librarians and language arts teachers over the years, we looked for engaging ways to rejuvenate our students’ enthusiasm—challenging everyone in our school community to commit to another year of reading. Teachers often need ways to maintain student interest in reading. Blah winter days at school seem more bearable when you can travel someplace else in a book or talk about books with a friend. Strong reading communities make time for not only discussing and sharing the books we finish and the ones we are currently reading but also ones we might read in the future.
Neuroscience has given educators a new way of thinking about how students change and grow as they learn. Now one research partnership is teaching them how to see it happen in real time. The Haskins Global Literacy Hub, a research lab associated with Yale University, partnered with two independent schools to study students as they learn to read over several years. But rather than just receiving feedback from the researchers, teachers at the Windward School in New York and AIM Academy in Philadelphia—each of which serves students with language-related disabilities like dyslexia—are learning to monitor and understand their own students' brain activity, to identify neurological markers of progress or problems.
School districts across the country are offering students a broad array of target languages to learn in dual-language programs. Schools now offer dual-language education in 18 languages, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Education. The report from the office of English language acquisition lists the number of states that offered programs in each language during the 2016-17 school year. Spanish, by far the most common home or first language of the nation's English-language-learner students, topped the list with 30 states. Mandarin Chinese was next on the list, with programs in 13 states, followed by French in nine states, German in six states, and Vietnamese in four states. A desire to preserve native languages has driven demand for programs for decades. Economics play a role too, with a growing number of states seeing foreign language as the key to accessing the global economy. There's also a growing recognition among educators that dual-language learning has shown great promise for increasing achievement for English-learner students.
Mi papi tiene una moto/My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña, and translated by Andrea Montejo, has won the first-ever gold medal for Best Spanish Language Picture Book from the Center for Children's Literature at Bank Street College of Education. The exuberant book, which was also named an SLJ Best Picture Book of 2019, centers on the story of a young girl and her papi as they zig and zag on his motorcycle, enjoying each other's company and the vibrant sights and sounds of their California community.
It looks like 2020 will be a big year for graphic novels—especially graphic novels for young people. Random House Graphic, the new graphic novel line led by publishing director Gina Gagliano, will roll out its first four books in the first four months of the year. Gagliano started her career as marketing director of First Second Books, where she promoted not only her company’s books but the medium as a whole. Here’s a look at some of those coming out in the first few months of the year.
A review of the research on how to teach critical thinking by University of Virginia professor Daniel Willingham concluded that generic critical thinking skills don’t translate from one subject to another but that subject-specific critical thinking skills can be explicitly taught as you go deep into a lesson, be it history or math, as students need to learn a lot of information to process it. A large study on teaching science to middle school students was published afterwards and it adds more nuance to this debate between critical thinking skills and content knowledge. A team of researchers found that students who learn to think like a scientist (more on what that means later) learn many more of the facts and figures in their science classes and absorb the content better.
Jason Reynolds wants kids to love his stories, but he wants them to love their own stories more. The award-winning author, whom the Library of Congress announced Monday will be the seventh National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, plans to use his two-year appointment to listen as kids and teens — especially those in small towns — share those stories. Reynolds, a Washington-area native and author of 13 books — including “Ghost,” “Long Way Down” and “Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks” — said he’s excited about taking the role in a new direction. “What I don’t want to do is be another mouthpiece that says kids need to read,” he said. “I realize that literacy is important. I don’t think telling them [that] works.” Reynolds prefers promoting reading and writing by encouraging kids to talk. At school visits, he lets them ask questions — whatever they want.
For students who struggle with dyslexia, a language-based learning disability, this approach is the most effective to help them develop literacy skills. Dyslexic brains have a hard time recognizing and manipulating the sounds in language, ultimately making it difficult for a child to grasp reading, writing and spelling. Thanks to new legislation, students with dyslexia are getting help. It requires all public schools to screen kindergarten through second-grade students for dyslexia. Those who show risk factors, at any grade level, may also be tested. The law also calls for one authorized reading specialist who has completed training in a dyslexia program for each school corporation. The specialist is responsible for training teachers and helping district officials administer and analyze the dyslexia screening results. They also help determine the appropriate intervention for students whose results suggest they may have traits of the learning disability.
With a roomful of rapidly developing children with wildly different needs in their care, early childhood educators will inevitably observe a host of behavioral and learning challenges among their students over the course of a school year. In any preschool classroom, some children may struggle to communicate, have a hard time making friends or experience separation anxiety from a parent. Others may struggle to learn new concepts, or exhibit aggressive tendencies. That challenges will arise in a classroom is a given. How teachers address these challenges—and with what training and resources—is the variable. Early childhood educators in Union City—one of the most densely populated cities in the United States, located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan—are better supported than most. At Union City Public Schools, and at a couple dozen other districts in New Jersey, teachers are assigned specially trained coaches who offer instructional guidance and model interventions for developmental issues that arise, including physical, behavioral or linguistic challenges.
The New York Public Library has been loaning books for a long time — the institution turns 125 this year. To celebrate, the library dug into its records and calculated a list of the 10 books that have been checked out the most in its history. The most-wanted book? The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The Caldecott Medal-winning tale of a young boy's encounter with snow has been checked out 485,583 times from the NYPL since it was published in 1962. It shares qualities with many of the other most-borrowed titles: The beautifully illustrated book has been around a long time, it's well-known and well-loved, and it's available in numerous languages.
Author Jason Reynolds has been named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2020-21. Like his predecessors, he will travel around the country to visit young people. He will expand the mission, however, and not only try to inspire kids to read but also tell their own stories through his platform "GRAB THE MIC: Tell Your Story." “My mission is to take a different approach: Instead of explicitly encouraging young people to read, my goal is to get them to see the value in their own narratives—that they, too, have a story, and that there's power not just in telling it, but in the opportunity to do so,” the National Book Award finalist and recipient of a Newbery and Printz Honor said in a statement announcing his appointment. “I’m excited to create spaces around the country for this to happen—spaces where young people can step into their voices and become their own ambassadors.” Reynolds succeeds Jacqueline Woodson in the post and is the seventh National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Educators think it’s important to teach science and social studies to young children. But few spend much time on those subjects—and often waste a lot of time when they do. Significant majorities of kindergarten-through-3rd-grade teachers—along with school and district leaders—believe that spending time on science and social studies sets kids up for success later on, according to a recent survey. Among the benefits they saw were improved reading comprehension and learning; a better chance of developing interests in those subjects; and the ability to explore topics in greater depth. Over 50% of those surveyed thought daily instruction in science was important in the early elementary grades, and around 45% thought the same of social studies. And yet, for decades, little time has been devoted to anything other than reading and math at early grade levels.
There’s magic in the act of reading, says Kelly Kennedy, a youth and family engagement librarian at Bartholomew County Public Library. Once a month, Kennedy partners with a community member to film a video of the individual reading their favorite book and talking to young viewers about their jobs and how reading inspired them to become who they are. The reading series, called “Lead, Read, Succeed,” kicked off in May 2019 with a story from Hope librarian Dave Miller, prior to the launch of the library’s summer reading program. Kennedy said the guest readers are not only telling one of their favorite stories with local youth, but they’re also sharing experiences and personal stories that could inspire young people to think about how reading could impact their own futures.
A common misapprehension about effective reading instruction is that we learn to do by doing — that students learn to read by reading and teachers learn to teach by teaching. It is painfully clear, as evidenced by our national reading rates, that this is not the case. Some non-educators propose that we consider addressing our national reading crisis by removing barriers to teacher credentialing. That’s the equivalent of saying that to fix the criminal justice system, we should eliminate law school and the bar exam and ask attorneys to learn on the job. On the contrary, teachers need and deserve training on par with that of legal and medical professionals. We need pre-service instruction that covers theory and research, internships that provide intensive supervised practice and ongoing professional development and support once we are in the classroom. Every teacher leaving a preparation program should be able to answer basic questions like: How do children learn to read? What are the prerequisite skills of reading comprehension? What are the signs that a child is at risk of reading failure?
The number of California students who cannot read is shocking. Results from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress show that only 32% of fourth graders are reading proficiently. These results put California below the national average and behind 25 other states. While the ranking is cause for concern, the difference in absolute performance exposes a reading crisis in California. Our students are over a year and half behind Massachusetts, the top-ranking state. The key to developing strong readers is providing teachers with the preparation and knowledge they need for excellent instruction. By making teaching practices based on the science of reading a budgetary and policy priority, California can intentionally invest in the science of what works and give all new and existing teachers the resources they need to help early and struggling readers reach their full potential in life.