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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Policymakers often exclusively focus on reading when addressing literacy gaps. However, research shows that writing skills help students become better readers and ultimately understand all subjects better. Writing is agency, power and influence. Writing not only helps students master new material, but it also serves as a tool for self-expression, reflection and community building. Writing can create new worlds and bring imagination to life. In a society that has historically devalued the voices of young people of color, writing empowers them to tell their own stories, succeed in school and career, engage in our national dialogue and become leaders in a global information economy.
Bringing art to assessments, to increase vocabulary knowledge, and to practice grammar are ways teachers incorporate it in their classes.
While most elementary students are learning in person now, these tools are a big help in promoting literacy in or outside of the classroom: recording on a tablet or smartphone, Google slides, and Pixar shorts.
While we bring the mental health needs of our students into laser focus this year, it’s still crucial that we keep the social and emotional world of our English language learners (ELLs) front and center. Just like their peers, ELL students come to our classrooms with the burning need to be seen and acknowledged for their unique personalities, life experiences, and talents. Teachers of any subject can use these tips to help English language learners be more engaged and at ease in class.
Noticing what students do and say in the classroom, and then reflecting on how you respond, are how you build a classroom for English learners that is centered around their needs. Every year, my students teach me new lessons. Here are a few things I learned by listening to, observing, and working with my students.
The key to Eye to Eye's popularity with students, said founder and CEO David Flink, is that students are paired with "near-peer" mentors who are like them — people who have learning differences. The mentors are college students who are only five or so years older than the students, which adds to the cool factor, Flink said. The mentors don’t tutor the students. Instead, they meet once a week for a school year and, using an arts-based curriculum, help build each student’s confidence, self-advocacy skills and recognition of their own strengths.
For those in the children’s literature world, Wednesday was yet another day of mourning and remembrance. This time, the loss was Caldecott-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney, who died Wednesday at age 81. Pinkney was an industry giant—like so many of those who have gone before him in recent months, including Gary Paulsen, Eric Carle, Beverly Cleary, Floyd Cooper, Lois Ehlert, Eloise Greenfield, Norton Juster, and Kathleen Krull. Pinkney was the patriarch of a family of children’s literature creators, including wife Gloria Jean, son Brian, and daughter-in-law Andrea Davis Pinkney. His first book was The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales, published in 1964. Over the next 50-plus years, he wrote or illustrated (or both) more than 100 children's titles and won numerous awards and honors for his work.
Arts education is often an afterthought in schools, but Erica Rosenfeld Halverson, Professor and Chair of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, thinks we’ve got it all wrong. In her new book, "How the Arts Can Save Education: Transforming Teaching, Learning and Instruction," Halverson argues not only do the arts belong in schools, but the core tenets of arts learning belong in every classroom. Education should use the arts—and especially the process of how artists create their work—as a blueprint to re-make more effective learning.
The declaration was penned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children's Hospital Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which together represent more than 77,000 physicians and 200 children's hospitals. The groups say that rates of childhood mental health concerns were already steadily rising over the past decade. But the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the issue of racial inequality, they write, has exacerbated the challenges.
The celebrated illustrator Jerry Pinkney has died. According to his long-time agent Sheldon Fogelman, Pinkney suffered a heart attack today; he was 81. Pinkney was a legend in the world of children's publishing. He won a Caldecott medal for his 2010 picture book The Lion and The Mouse; he also won five Coretta Scott King awards from the American Library Association and a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Illustrators. Over the course of a nearly six-decade long career, he left his mark on over a hundred books, mostly for kids and teenagers, beginning with The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales in 1964.
From imaginative play to storytelling, certain activities help build self-regulation, memory, and planning skills—setting the littlest learners on a pathway to academic success.
I use the term Parachute Writings (PWs) to describe quick writing opportunities that can be easily deployed in the classroom. PWs can be dropped into just about any lesson and require limited up front preparation. Just like parachutes prevent skydivers from crashing into the ground, PWs offer an element of safety for students. They are quick, low stakes, and flexible, which provides students the opportunity to practice multiple writing skills for a variety of purposes and audiences in short bursts.
At a time when diverse books are facing challenges across the country, the Ezra Jack Keats (EJK) Foundation presents a new documentary chronicling the diversity in children's literature. Tell Me Another Story describes the dedication and work of kid lit legends past and present who have brought authenticity and diversity to children's books. The film highlights creators, advocates, and librarians from W.E.B. Du Bois, Augusta Baker, Pura Belpré, and Ezra Jack Keats, to Pat Cummings, Marley Dias, Grace Lin, Christopher Myers, and Andrea Davis Pinkney. It also looks at the contributions made by the children's book awards that honor BIPOC creators and their stories, including the Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, and Ezra Jack Keats Awards.
Almost 350 people wrote in to share beloved books, and I loved reading through your suggestions. There were so many books I remembered from my own childhood and from reading to my little cousins. Readers wrote in with plenty of classics — “Charlotte’s Web,” the “Magic Tree House” series, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” — that should be part of every reading list. But we also were amazed at the range of titles, with gems for every age group.
Thirteen-year-olds saw unprecedented declines in both reading and math between 2012 and 2020, according to scores released this morning from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Consistent with several years of previous data, the results point to a clear and widening cleavage between America’s highest- and lowest-performing students and raise urgent questions about how to reverse prolonged academic stagnation. The scores offer more discouraging evidence from NAEP, often referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card.”
His 200 books, among them “Hatchet” and “Dogsong,” inspired generations with their tales of exploration, survival and the bloody reality of the natural world.
Early Edge California and American Institutes for Research (AIR) released the Multilingual Learning Toolkit last month, an online hub of research-and evidence-based instructional resources and strategies on how to best-support multilingual learners (MLs), a broad term used to encompass both dual language learners (DLLs) and ELs, in grades PreK–3. This one-stop-shop is the product of a collaborative effort between local and national practitioners, researchers, and advocates committed to improving educational opportunities for MLs in early grades where a higher percentage of children are identified as ELs compared to upper grades.
Nearly all librarians, school and public, consider EDI/DEI in collection development, according to SLJ's recent survey. Leadership however, drew criticism for paying lip service to these efforts or, in some cases, bending to patron pressure, without real support for diversity, equity, or inclusion.
Increasing "wait time," offering students more choice, and differentiating instruction in simple ways are a few manageable changes.
Childhood is all about imagination, but imagination is a two-way street. On the one hand, it can manufacture our deepest fears. On the other, it can grant us the skill set we need to confront our insecurities — including fear. It’s not so much that children long to be frightened as that they yearn to confront what’s frightening, if only to develop the skills to cope. Here we have four current works in which authors draw in young readers with ghosts, ghouls and vampires — not to scare them but to amuse them.
As states have crafted plans for addressing the academic disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, one area has emerged as a policy priority: early reading instruction. At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have said that they plan to use COVID-19 relief funding through the American Rescue Plan or previous aid packages to support teacher training or instruction in evidence-based approaches to early literacy. And over the past year, four states have passed new laws or enacted regulations that mandate teachers be taught, and use, techniques that are grounded in the large body of research on how children learn to read.
A slow but significant change has been taking place in the early reading world over the past year, loosening the grip that some long-used, but unproven, instructional techniques have held over the field for decades. Big names—like Lucy Calkins, of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and author and literacy specialist Jennifer Serravallo—have recently released updates to their published materials or announced impending rewrites that change how they instruct students to decipher words. Reading researchers say they find these industry moves encouraging ... [but] cautioned that this narrow change in materials won’t necessarily lead to large shifts in instructional practice, and that more needs to be done to support teachers of the youngest learners in developing kids’ early reading skills—especially after several years of disrupted, pandemic-era schooling.
School districts don’t have to offer virtual learning this year, and most have scaled back their virtual offerings to encourage students to return to in-person school. But where virtual school is available, some students with disabilities are finding it’s closed to them — or they are being asked to give up certain kinds of support to enroll. That’s left families, advocates, lawyers, and school districts disagreeing on a key question: With schools open nationwide, what exactly must districts provide online?
The perfect children’s section in a public library encourages curiosity and exudes comfort by combining enthusiastic staff and a just-right collection with art, technology, play, and whimsical-but-functional furniture. It is escape and destination. Now, imagine an entire branch. Welcome to the Reby Cary Youth Library in Fort Worth, TX.
Project-based learning is an educational philosophy that calls upon students to take on a real-world question – such as how to best design a farm – and explore it over a period of weeks. Teachers incorporate grade-level instruction into the project, which is designed to meet academic goals and standards, and students learn content and skills while working collaboratively, thinking critically and often revising their work. At the end, that work is shared publicly. Experts say the real-world approach to learning resonates, and studies show it is effective.
Gary Paulsen, whose books taught generations of kids how to survive in the woods with only a hatchet, died Wednesday at the age of 82. Paulsen was best known for those wilderness survival stories, though he wrote more than 200 books during his lifetime, and three of his novels, Hatchet, Dogsong and The Winter Room, were Newbery Honor books.
Experts and educators have many suggestions to help children understand what they read. Learn more about improving oral language and vocabulary, understanding context, reciprocal teaching, and other strategies to build comprehension.
While librarians cannot take on or solve all the issues involving poverty and economic hardship, we can create policies that, at best, help vulnerable students access materials and their school environment; and, at the least, do not shame them. So what are school library programs and other school-wide initiatives doing to buffer the effects of poverty and economic hardship? Here is a list of original ideas and crowdsourced information from colleagues and librarians across the nation.
California's new $2.7 billion universal transitional kindergarten program is being hailed by many experts as a game-changer for families in a state with almost 3 million children under the age of 5. This expansion of the current TK program will create more equity in early education, many experts say. Increasing access to preschool may be one of the keys to closing the achievement gap, they say, since about 90% of brain growth happens before kindergarten.
Does the Science of Reading (SoR) have sufficient reach to account for the reading development of all students regardless of context or language? That is, can SoR-based theories and research effectively inform instruction in, for example, a dual language classroom or a school with a large percentage of emergent bilinguals? A more extensive dive into the science reveals SoR’s scope to be far more encompassing than critics admit.
Emily Solari, an education professor at the University of Virginia, talks about what reading instruction looks like in many of our schools and what we need to know about the Simple View of Reading, which highlights the importance of both decoding (word reading) development and linguistic awareness, or oral language development.
When these lavishly photo-illustrated books entered the U.S. marketplace in 1991, they revolutionized children’s nonfiction by giving young fact lovers a fresh, engaging way to access information. Both then and now, the eye-catching design and short blocks of clear, straightforward expository text delight “info-kids” who crave knowledge about the world and how it works and their place in it.
This fall, elementary school teachers and school leaders in one third of North Carolina school districts will begin LETRS training, with an ambitious goal of training all elementary school educators in the science of reading. A timely report entitled North Carolina Science of Teaching Reading Project from the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) published earlier this week provides insights on how we can best support teachers.
As children make their way back into physical classrooms after an unprecedented year of virtual education, parents and educators must ask a crucial question: What can be done to help returning students cope with feelings of anxiety, depression and powerlessness? One avenue for encouraging children’s personal wellness is a return to arts education, whose far-ranging benefits traverse their emotional, personal and academic lives.
A relatively easy way for libraries to include diverse books might be to create displays of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) winners and honorees, past and present, every year. The WNDB Walter award is perhaps one of the most comprehensive in terms of its definition of diversity. In addition, here’s a list of other awards that seek out books about or authors from underrepresented and marginalized groups.
This white paper by Scholastic examines why efforts by schools to buy more books with diverse characters are important. It also looks at how librarians/media specialists and other K–12 leaders can make a difference by creating an inclusive literacy environment where students see both the stories of their cultures and their lives in the books they read, but also the stories of their classmates as well.
So how worried should educators be about all that time students spend staring at a Chromebook, iPad, or cellphone screen, especially if it’s followed by hours of television or video games? How many hours of screen time per day is too much? To answer those questions, Education Week spoke with Lisa Guernsey, a senior fellow and strategic advisor with the Education Policy Program at New America, and Michael Levine, Senior Vice President, Learning and Impact, for Noggin, Nickelodeon’s online interactive learning service for preschoolers.
In an effort to continue its support of educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, Discovery Education announced today that it will offer approximately 500 daily classroom activities available to teachers nationwide at no cost throughout the school year. Available until June of 2022, the free activities are designed to be quickly integrated into instruction no matter where it is taking place.
A new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday requires all state-subsidized preschool programs to identify the languages children speak at home and the language spoken by program staff. In addition, the bill requires programs to show they support children in developing both their home language and English in order to be considered a “quality” program by the state.
We've all heard about the benefits of learning to read quietly and independently. A big part of learning at school is all about reading, but it's not always easy to find time for more reading at home. But early childhood expert Keisha Siriboe says there is a way, and it doesn't have to be independent or quiet! Her solution: reading aloud as a family.
The best programs, according to experts, focus on spreading SEL practices by infusing them throughout the school’s culture. “Every kid needs to be heard and have a safe, nurturing relationship with an adult inside the school,” says Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, TN, and a national speaker about SEL. Portell says that wide geographic, socioeconomic, and racial differences in school districts across the country mean the pandemic affected different communities in different ways. “[SEL] curriculum builds common language; it’s a plate that everything sits upon. But the table is the school culture,” he says.
What can teachers (and parents) do to help children feel stable, safe, and ready to learn? My counsel is to return to social and emotional learning fundamentals by using strategies from evidence-based SEL learning programs designed for schools and other settings. Here are four recommendations for approaches that will help students feel understood, express themselves, and flourish during this school year.
For years, educators have pushed for more diverse books in classrooms and school libraries, emphasizing the importance of children of color seeing themselves reflected in the pages. And while progress has been made, some experts worry that the current debates over how race is addressed in schools may discourage certain stories from being taught.
The canon is defined as “a collection of rules or texts that are considered to be authoritative” or “a set group of works that are considered to be high quality and representative of a field.” When you think of the children’s canon of literature, what books do you think of? Do you think of the books from your childhood, or do you have a mix of those and newer ones that have since come out?
n Port Orford, Oregon, it’s a quick walk from the elementary and middle school building to the town library. In fact, the town library and school are linked by more than geography, since the school district’s two libraries became part of the Port Orford library system in 2017. The town’s library system stepped in to assist the district in buying books, organizing the collection, and other management tasks. They also provided crucial space, books, Wi-Fi, and activities to students during the pandemic. The school-library partnership exemplifies the close-knit community of the two small, coastal towns making up the Port Orford-Langlois School District.
Low attendance may indicate positive learning conditions are missing and interventions are needed. Strategies include creating positive relationships, letting data guide interventions, and a focus on transition grades.
Testing and masking, are critical, but so is collaboration and communication. For example: community partnerships can fill gaps in school services and communication with parents should be preemptive and constant.
Studies show classroom design affects student learning, so it’s important to design a space that matches 21st century learning styles. And who understands what they need better than the kids learning there? That is the logic behind user experience (UX) classroom design and an important reason why it’s beneficial for students to play a role in designing their classrooms.
States that have adopted legislation around science-aligned approaches to reading instruction have seen significant improvements in reading achievement. The research provides evidence that informs how proficient reading and writing skills develop over time and shows why some students have difficulty. Its conclusions can help us effectively assess, teach and improve student outcomes, both by preventing reading difficulties and identifying students early who need intervention.
If librarians worried about every book that has been challenged, then there would be few books in libraries. Instead of focusing on potential problems with specific books or series, place your focus on the reader.
Start this year looking for success stories. As veteran educator Ron Berger reminds us, the secret to motivating kids is to raise expectations and then provide the support needed to meet them. In word and in deed, tell your kids: “I’m really excited for you. You’re going to race ahead this year. You’re going to learn more than you did last year, and you’re going to feel so proud.”
Across the country, school and public libraries are dealing with the damage from natural disasters over the last few months. While storms brought deadly and destructive wind and flooding to the East Coast, the West Coast was once again battling multiple raging wildfires. SLJ checked in with just a few of the librarians to learn about their library recovery efforts as they also manage the personal impact of the storm.
We’ve put together a list of multicultural children’s books that feature characters of all kinds of ethnicities and races. These vibrant books provide age-appropriate stories and illustrations that artfully teach babies and kids about the wonderfully diverse world we live in—and the importance of respect for it all.
An unlikely coalition of parents has come together to challenge Minneapolis’s strategies for teaching reading. Backed by the nascent National Parents Union, Twin Cities families of color are leading the charge, representing a socioeconomic cross-section of the city that includes affluent, white district parents whose children struggle with dyslexia. The parents come armed with a growing archive of scholarly research that suggests the schools’ literacy strategies are ineffective at best. They also know there is cash to fix them, thanks to the American Rescue Plan. And they, finally, have the district’s attention.
StoryWalks encourage collaboration and reflection, and transform the often sedentary act of reading into a dynamic, interactive activity. Instead of snuggling up in a cozy reading spot, readers are presented with colorful pages from an illustrated book, displayed one-by-one on stakes as they stroll along an indoor or outdoor walking path.
In many places, communication between schools and parents is turning out to be one of the bright spots in an otherwise chaotic and uncertain era of education. And, it is a golden opportunity for schools to push parent engagement to a higher level this year and beyond.
The middle grade graphic novel boom brought with it two consequences that have coincided neatly: Publishers had an incentive to stretch the category to reach younger readers, and those younger readers, seeing siblings and friends reading “Dog Man” and Raina Telgemeier’s books, wanted to read comics as well. The result has been an explosion in the past year of graphic novels for early readers, ages four to eight, with most of the major book publishers jumping in with titles of their own. The model for the most recent wave of early reader graphic novels is Ben Clanton’s Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, a very silly, simply drawn story about an easy-going narwhal and a more conscientious jellyfish.
Words have rescued us. During these strange seasons, amid the silences of public spaces, they’ve provided consolation, helped us stay tuned. We’ve broken quietude in new ways, re-examined what we thought we knew, carried phrases as mottoes, or leverage. Four new books (three picture books and a graphic novel) examine the curiosities of our playful word-life in four very different ways.
The Education Week Research Center surveyed 886 K-12 educators in July: Nineteen percent said they knew “a lot” about their students’ home learning environments before the pandemic; 43 percent said they know a lot now. That’s a pretty big jump. How might schools build on that awareness and use it to improve their future work? A new tool in Oregon might provide some grounds for discussion. Alongside traditional spring state tests on subjects like math and reading, students there piloted a new survey tool called the Student Educational Equity Development Survey, or SEEDS. The state expects to release initial results from the survey later in the fall. It builds on years of efforts around the country to expand schools’ understanding of their students’ experiences, including feelings of safety, support, and engagement at school, as well as access to learning resources.
Language educators may find that incorporating gestures or other types of movements in their vocabulary lessons improves learning outcomes, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The study, conducted by researchers at Germany’s Dresden University of Technology, explored the ways in which stimulating the brain’s motor cortex impacts the acquisition of new vocabulary.