Today’s Reading News
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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One state took a different path with good initial results. Since 2021, over 30,000 Tennessee educators have participated in Reading 360 training, and the feedback has been striking: 97 percent of teachers said they felt equipped to apply what they learned in the training in their classrooms. Teachers report stronger outcomes and earlier reading success in early grades.
Research has repeatedly shown dyslexia is associated with specific cognitive strengths. These include visual-spatial processing, narrative memory, problem-solving, and reasoning. While there is still a lot to learn about these advantages and how they work, in this video we unpack what we know about dyslexia, and what many studies have concluded about these strengths.
Experts say it’s possible to drastically expand tutoring. Millions more students can get the help they need, the experts said, if leaders are willing to do what it takes. Chalkbeat asked a dozen experts how to ramp up effective tutoring. One effective strategy: schedule tutoring during the school day.
Julie Stivers is the 2023 School Librarian of the Year. The librarian at Mount Vernon Middle School, an alternative, public, academic-recovery school in Raleigh, NC, has spent the last nine years creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for the school's students, who fell behind or were left back for a variety of reasons. She has built a collection that reflects the community of students and their interests, fostering a love of reading along the way, as well as running in-person and virtual clubs and community reads and checking in with families as she strives to make a difference through personal relationships.
A bill introduced this month would have fulfilled a longtime dream of advocates for dyslexic children — universal screening for the learning disability so more Colorado students could get the reading help they need. But before the bill even got a hearing, a key lawmaker signaled it won’t move forward after opposition from some educators and state education groups. Advocates say the early elementary reading assessments approved by the state aren’t all designed to detect everyone at risk for the learning disability, which means young students fall through the cracks at a time when extra help would do the most good. But opponents of the bill say it would impose too many requirements as schools continue to recover from pandemic-era disruptions and work to comply with other recent reading-related laws.
Students who want to read about dinosaurs, delve into English literature classics, or just immerse themselves in a good story have plenty of options: Traditional paper books, e-readers, audio books, tablets, computer screens, even their phones or smart watches. When it comes to learning, however, are all these mediums created equal? Which are best for comprehension, and which are best for younger students? And how will the increasing digitization of books reshape reading instruction? To unpack those questions, Education Week spoke with Maryann Wolf, the director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Wolf is also the author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.
An intense program in phonological awareness can help middle school students who are struggling to keep up with reading. In the district program described here, As secondary educators, teachers received early literacy instruction with a Pathways to Reading trainer, and we read David Kilpatrick’s book Equipped for Reading Success. All students except one gained three to five levels on the PAST. Teachers also noted gains in vocabulary, stamina, discussion skills, and general attitude toward reading. Alongside the students, the educators learned both research and instructional strategies for helping striving middle school readers.
If you argue that rock ’n’ roll is one of the biggest forces to shape global culture in the 20th century, then you must conclude that Sister Rosetta Tharpe, often called “the Godmother of Rock ’n’ Roll,” is one of the world’s most important 20th-century figures. It is good news that we now have two fine picture books about her. Before her, guitarists played the blues, and mostly sat down doing it, or they were part of a jazz band’s rhythm section, underpinning the soloists who stood in front. Tharpe stepped out, displaying the kind of virtuosic physical bravado we associate with Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix, not to mention all the others who have modeled themselves on that trio since.
Studies show that kids tend to score worse on comprehension tests after reading digital text than they do after reading something on a printed page. Even so, researchers say the evidence is too nuanced to say conclusively that reading physical books is superior. And some new research even shows that in certain cases, with young emerging readers, digital books outperform their print counterparts. Instead of feeling like they need to choose one or the other, elementary teachers should focus on figuring out the best ways to support kids’ comprehension in both print and digital formats.
Debates over how to teach math echo the conflicts over reading instruction, and some issues are similar. But unlike math, reading—in its full sense—draws on everything a person has been able to learn. “Experts say it’s time for districts to turn their attention to math instruction,” Holly Korbey writes in a recent article for Ed Post, adding that in math, as in reading, student achievement is low, teachers have received inadequate training, and philosophical battles are raging.
NPR Poet in Residence [and children's author] Kwame Alexander recently challenged listeners to write a poem about napping, or anything related, sleeping, dreaming, relaxing.... One thing we confirmed, hundreds of you spend a lot of time thinking about rest and relaxation. From school kids to the elderly, we received over 1200 poems from across the country. Here's Alexander's latest community crowd-sourced poem. It's called a Blanket of Words.
The overwhelming majority of vision-impaired children attend regular public schools, rather than specialty schools for the blind, and few have teachers who are trained to understand differences between tactile and visual language, experts say. That can be problematic because understanding these different language modes can be critical for teachers to boost literacy skills for their visually impaired students. Researchers have found that differences in the way words are broken up in braille and print can lead to misunderstandings for visually impaired students taught by sighted teachers. For example, braille contracts “ER” into a single cell which represents those two letters. In a word like “runner,” where the "-er” is a suffix, this contraction doesn’t change how a student with regular or low vision would naturally break up the word.
Central Falls, where nearly half of students are English learners, offers 2 extra hours of language instruction daily. That adds up to roughly 50 days. With the infusion of COVID funds, leaders recognized the unique opportunity to uplift the school system. They crunched academic data to identify what student investments might deliver the highest impact. About 600 multilingual learners, they found, remained below the minimum English proficiency level to succeed in English-only classes, and many had languished there for years. Boosting these long-neglected students could address a “root cause” of the district’s years of underperformance, Superintendent Stephanie Toledo believed.
One question I have gotten repeatedly in 20 years of supporting children’s librarians is how to divide up story time age groups. Is it best to have programs dedicated to specific ages to focus on the developmental needs of each? Does a mix of ages offer other benefits? Youth services staff at libraries across the country make compelling cases for both approaches.
America is finally acknowledging a harsh truth: The way many schools teach children to read doesn’t work. Educators, and indeed families, are having a long overdue conversation about how one of the nation’s most widely used curricula, “Units of Study,” is deeply flawed — and where to go from here. "Many administrators have also assumed that instructional programs peddled to their districts have a solid research base and are supported by data. We lead school systems in different regions of the country—the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and Texas. And we’ve all seen the instructional disconnect," say three superintendents.
Guiding upper elementary students with boundaries rather than rules can make for a more harmonious classroom. Boundaries change with what we need—maybe today we need to stay quiet as a class because there’s something everyone really needs to focus on. Or maybe today we need to work on group work; therefore, our noise level is appropriately louder—but still respecting the work of other groups and other classrooms near us. Whatever the case may be, our boundaries are set around our two classroom values—safety and personal bests.
How do you know you really know something? That’s part of what cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham explains in his new book, “How to Outsmart Your Brain: Why Learning Is Hard and How You Can Make It Easy,” and the focus of the excerpt below. Willingham is a renowned psychology professor at the University of Virginia who focuses his research on the application of cognitive psychology to K-12 schools and higher education. Here’s an excerpt from “How to Outsmart Your Brain.”
Education researchers have been urging schools to invest their $120 billion in federal pandemic recovery funds in tutoring. What researchers have in mind is an extremely intensive type of tutoring, often called “high dosage” tutoring, which takes place daily or almost every day. It has produced remarkable results for students in almost 100 studies, but these programs are difficult for schools to launch and operate. They involve hiring and training tutors and coming up with tailored lesson plans for each child.
To support multilingual learners of English (MLEs), The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), TESOL International Association, and WIDA have made the following recommendations for and comments on the 2030 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Writing Assessment Framework. Recommendations include: secure resources to review assessments written in multiple languages; treat multilingual learners and students with disabilities independently as they represent distinctly different groups of students; and incorporate opportunities for multilingual learners to access and utilize their rich linguistic and cultural resources during assessment.
People that have been perceived as being in opposite corners over how to teach reading in California released a joint paper Thursday agreeing that foundational reading skills like phonics, vocabulary and comprehension should be taught explicitly and systematically to all students. And children who are learning English as a second language, who make up 1 in 4 first graders in California, also need lessons to practice speaking and listening in English, and to make connections with other languages they know. In addition, they agreed that all children should be screened early to identify both needs and strengths in reading, taking into account students’ level of English language proficiency and the language in which they have been taught.
When families are deeply involved in their children’s learning, student academic success often follows. But what does that look like in action? Research has consistently shown that home-school partnerships lead to higher grades, test scores, attendance and graduation rates, said Karen Mapp, a senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Mapp spoke Tuesday during the U.S. Department of Education’s first online panel discussion in its Family Engagement Learning Series.
If school districts want a broader, more diverse group of parents to attend meetings, ask questions, and participate in school-based activities, they can’t just invite families to show up—they need to set up systems that make them feel welcome and heard. That was one of the takeaways from a panel on Latino parent engagement March 8 at SXSW EDU. On the panel, “Elevating Latino Parents in Education,” parents, advocates, and educators discussed efforts in the Houston area to make home-school communication smoother, and equip families with the knowledge and skills to advocate for their kids.
The transition into kindergarten has always been a big one for kids. And as this first year of elementary school has become increasingly academic, some parents wonder whether it’s best to enroll children as soon as they’re eligible, or wait an additional year until they’re more mature. Considerations may feel especially fraught now, as fewer kids attended preschool during the pandemic. Experts say that delaying kindergarten – a practice known as “redshirting” – may benefit kids in certain circumstances, but caution that there are also disadvantages to waiting.
The airport at the center of “You Are Here: Connecting Flights,” a collection of 12 cleverly linked stories by Asian American authors, happens to be in Chicago. But its mushrooming chaos, due to weather delays and last-minute cancellations, is a familiar joy of most major travel hubs. Here, it’s the Saturday before the Fourth of July, a summer storm has wreaked havoc on flight schedules, and many of the book’s young Asian protagonists, who all seem to be around 12, are enduring run-ins with extremely jerky strangers.
Speed booking is a fun, high-energy method for students to get book recommendations and practice their summarizing skills. It offers movement, connection, and a creative outlet. It can also be adapted in innovative ways through student-generated questions, character role-playing, poetry analysis, and research reporting to encourage higher-level thinking.
American author Laurie Halse Anderson is the winner of the 2023 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest children’s book prize, with the laureate receiving five million Swedish krona. The award was announced live from Stockholm on March 7, and was broadcast simultaneously at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The ALMA jury’s citation states, “In her tightly written novels for young adults, Laurie Halse Anderson gives voice to the search for meaning, identity, and truth, both in the present and the past. ..."
Only about a quarter of the 100 most-used ed-tech tools in classrooms meet Every Student Succeeds Act requirements, according to a new report from LearnPlatform, an education technology company that helps districts measure the use and effectiveness of their digital products. When the pandemic hit, many companies provided their products to schools and teachers for free. And schools used them even if companies didn’t provide evidence of standards alignment, because educators needed something that would help engage their students.
“One of the things we consistently see in pediatrics is that children of color get less of everything,” said Katharine Zuckerman, an associate professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University who has studied racial disparities in diagnoses of autism and other disorders. “They get less antibiotics. They get less early intervention.” A growing number of parents, researchers and politicians have in recent years turned their attention to these persistent gaps, which they argue play a pivotal — and long-overlooked — role in shaping educational inequities years, even decades, after children start school.
As a newly minted middle school English teacher, I was shocked by the number of students who entered my classroom unable to decode text. As I got to know them, I saw that herculean efforts to mask their reading disabilities revealed intelligence, determination, and traumatic relationships to school. In my experience, conversations about the science of reading are happening primarily with elementary and early childhood educators. But how are we addressing the ways that the system has failed our secondary students when they first learned to read? How can I, a middle school ELA teacher, support the students in my class who were passed along without receiving the literacy instruction they needed?
March is dedicated to celebrating women's contributions to history, culture, and society in the U.S. But all around the globe, women are working for a more just and accepting world. These 10 collective biographies of hardworking, determined, fierce women will teach and inspire young readers.
The pandemic has taken an enormous academic toll on the nation’s students, especially those in high-poverty schools. In response, states and districts are pursuing a range of interventions, from intensive tutoring to summer learning opportunities. But ensuring that students’ daily classroom instruction is built on high-quality, standards-based instructional materials and teaching techniques should be a core component of the work.
Sharie Murray noticed the benefits of getting kids moving during the pandemic. The K-3 special education teacher and her colleagues at North Elementary School in Birch Run, Mich., started to use short exercise videos to keep students occupied during waiting times over Zoom, but Murray said getting students’ blood moving also helped them focus more during the virtual class periods.
In a survey of 21 school districts in rural, suburban and urban areas, NPR found most districts – from New York City to Austin, Texas, to Lawrence, Kan. – still had heightened levels of chronic absenteeism. Students who are chronically absent are at higher risk of falling behind, scoring lower on standardized tests and even dropping out. And as often happens in education, students who struggle with attendance are also more likely to live in poverty, be children of color or have disabilities.
The “three-cueing” approach has come under fire, but actually ridding classrooms of the lessons may prove challenging, purchase orders reveal. In some cases, district officials stood by the literacy materials, saying their teachers swear by them. Others defended their purchases as one tool among many at educators’ disposal for teaching kids how to read, acknowledging that they were insufficient on their own.
The pandemic led to a rapid rise in screen time among kids while the vast majority of them engaged in full-time remote or hybrid learning. But as COVID-19 restrictions lifted and students returned to in-person instruction, the time they spent in front of screens didn’t come back down as expected, according to newly released research supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Pediatrics. Those elevated levels of screen time persisted for more than one year after the pandemic forced mass school building closures nationwide. That’s troubling to health experts for a number of reasons: Too much screen time is bad for children both physically and mentally. It can lead to weight-gaining habits and eventually obesity and hurt students’ focus and executive skills—all of which can get in the way of learning.
There are lots of reasons why screening isn’t the magic bullet that necessarily leads to “fixing” dyslexic students’ struggles with reading. Literacy experts and advocates for children with dyslexia explain some of the multiple factors that can impede both the screening process and what happens next.
Tonya Bolden is one of the most prolific and acclaimed authors of children’s and young adult literature that focuses on Black history. We thought it was fitting to conclude our Black History Month nonfiction/fiction pairings by highlighting a selection of her works for young people. The offerings are organized in chronological order, from enslavement to modern-day.
Many students and teachers view math as a subject for numbers and computation, instead of one that benefits from discussion and interpretation. Based on our experience as children’s literature and mathematics teacher-educators, we’ve found that providing the context to mathematical problems through literature supports students’ learning—children’s books can be used to integrate math and literacy and to provide context for math.
Dan Santat and the late Jerry Pinkney draw from life (literally) in their memoirs for young readers. Pinkney’s pure, spontaneous drawing process has previously been hidden for the most part by his finished illustrations’ perfectionism. Not so in this posthumous memoir, Just Jerry: How Drawing Shaped My Life. His publisher made the good decision to illustrate the book (lavishly) with Pinkney’s rough sketches for the project. Dan Santat's book, A First Time for Everything, is a memoir of a different stripe. For starters, it’s presented in graphic novel form. And instead of attempting the broad scope of a life, Santat focuses on one escapade during his middle school days.
The percentage of third graders on track in reading hasn’t budged since this time last year, new data shows — a reminder of the literacy setbacks experienced by kindergartners when schools shut down in 2020. Even so, the test’s administrators are interpreting the flatline at 54% as good news. Paul Gazzerro, director of data analysis at curriculum provider Amplify, said it’s likely that third graders would have fallen even further behind without efforts like tutoring and additional group instruction.
Mississippi’s model for improving early literacy has been a standout since 2019, based on its nation-leading achievement growth on the fourth grade NAEP reading test. But its use of grade retention—holding students back in third grade and, if districts choose, earlier—as both a student intervention and an accountability tool, has drawn criticism, especially from educators, many of whom feel that retention amounts to “educational malpractice.” But that picture seems to be changing, with studies of literacy-focused retention policies, both in Florida and now in Mississippi. The results are stunning.
Ever since the pandemic shut down schools almost three years ago, I’ve been writing about tutoring as the most promising way to help kids catch up academically. I often get questions about research on tutoring. How effective is tutoring? How many schools are doing it? How is it going so far? In this column, the author recaps the evidence for tutoring and what we know now about pandemic tutoring. For those who want to learn more, there are links to sources throughout and at the end, a list of Hechinger stories on tutoring.
Learning how to write well can make students better readers. Study after study has shown that when children are taught how to write complex sentences and compose different kinds of texts, their ability to read and understand a wider variety of writing improves too. “We need to be thinking about reading and writing reciprocally,” said Dana Robertson, an associate professor of reading and literacy in the School of Education at Virginia Tech. Robertson spoke about the research base behind reading-writing connections during an Education Week forum last week, featuring researchers, teachers, and district leaders, about writing and the “science of reading.”
Teachers can create meaningful outdoor learning experiences even if they don’t have easy access to a wilderness space. Recent research shows that even short-term exposures to the outdoors, sometimes called green breaks, have a positive impact on academic outcomes. A brief stroll in an outdoor environment or a short visit to a community garden can positively impact students’ attentiveness as well as their working memory. This is of particular interest to the teachers of students who live in places such as urban centers, where access to green space might be more limited.
Just like you, I have been following the stream of articles and social media posts where teachers are talking about their struggles. I can even relate to many of those struggles, such as unrealistic expectations, challenging classroom behaviors, and mental health struggles. Despite all that we’re up against, I can say with complete confidence that I love being a teacher and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. To be honest, listening to other teachers often makes me feel a bit guilty about how much I still enjoy teaching after more than 10 years as an early childhood educator in Chicago.
English learners are one of the fastest growing student populations in the country, yet the number of specialized educators for them is lagging behind. The number of certified licensed English learner instructors decreased by about 10.4 percent between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, according to the latest federal data available. The national English learner population grew by 2.6 percent in the same time period. “It just is a huge disconnect in terms of what we’re seeing with our student demographics and looking at projections of what’s to come,” said Diane Staehr Fenner, president and founder of SupportEd, a consulting firm focused on English learners’ education.
School counselor Meredith Draughn starts every day by greeting the students who fill her campus hallways, cup of coffee in hand. There are about 350 of them, and she knows all their names. "Kids want to feel known and want to feel loved. And greeting them by name is one way we can do that...Research shows that that helps us build a positive culture and a welcoming culture." Draughn works at B. Everett Jordan Elementary School in the rural town of Graham, N.C., and she was recently named 2023's School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). The selection committee praised Draughn's data-driven approach and passion for her students.
Earlier this month, Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced the launch of the National Early Care and Education Workforce Center — the ECE Workforce Center, for short — to support research and technical assistance for states, communities, territories and tribal nations. With a $30 million investment over five years, the center aims to improve conditions for the early care and education workforce, making it a more attractive field to enter, remain and advance in. The two main goals of the center are increasing compensation, including wages and benefits, and building a diverse, qualified pipeline of future educators.
Ohio could soon join the rush of states requiring schools to use the “Science of Reading” in all its classrooms by fall 2024 — going even further than many states by banning other literacy approaches that have lost credibility. Currently, state law allows districts to teach reading however they want. Under his proposed bill, Gov. Mike DeWine would force them to pick only phonics-based Science of Reading materials from a list the Ohio Department of Education will create. Dewine has also asked the state legislature to ban use of any “three cueing” materials or lessons — an approach considered the foundation of popular teaching methods known as Whole Language, Balanced Literacy or, particularly in Ohio, Reading Recovery.
Design thinking is a lifelong skill that children may use to tackle complex problems throughout their lives and is a valuable skill to learn early in life. At its core, design thinking has several steps: Identify a problem, design potential solutions, test the solutions, redesign as needed and share the solutions with a wider audience.
Getting students at all grade levels motivated and engaged in their education is paramount as schools work to make up for the unfinished learning that happened over the past few years. It’s a task made more difficult by the damage the pandemic did to students’ social-emotional skills. This special report tackles that question by examining by how mentorship programs can drive student engagement, what it takes to get elementary students excited about learning, how work-based learning experiences help high school students see the relevance of the classes they take in school, and the traits of teachers who are consistently successful in motivating students.
Authors Grace Lin and Kate Messner believe books give readers the ability to experience new worlds and empathize with others. Together they wrote “Once Upon A Book,” a children’s picture book where the main character Alice is swept away on an adventure through the magic of reading. “There is a perfect book for everyone,” said Lin. “You just have to find it.” However, there is an art to matching kids with the right book. For parents and teachers who want children to cultivate a love of reading, Messner and Lin provided tips on how to help kids find wonder through books.
For at least a half-century, there has been a great deal of discussion about how children learn to read. While policymakers, curriculum developers, educational leaders, and those in the media have been using this discussion to drive headlines and policy, reading scientists across the world have been formulating questions and conducting experiments to find answers to specific questions regarding how the human brain learns to read. We are far from knowing all the answers, but the research does provide many important concrete understandings about how our brains acquire the complex process of turning marks on a page into language, as well as what to do when it has difficulty doing so.
ILA was determined to rehome the reading lists—which launched in 1974 with Children’s Choices and later expanded to include Young Adults’ Choices and Teachers’ Choices—with an organization that would honor the spirit of the program and produce lists with the respect and care they deserved. The obvious choice: The Children’s Book Council (CBC). For years, CBC cosponsored the Children’s Choices list, and in 2019 it also began cosponsoring its counterpart for young adults.
Communities In Schools, the national organization that provides wraparound services to students in high-poverty schools, will receive up to $165 million from the Ballmer Group, the largest gift in the organization’s 45-year history. The announcement comes just a little more than a year after MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist and writer, gave a no-strings-attached $133.5 million gift to Communities In Schools’ national office and select state affiliates to expand its in-school support services to low-income students. The latest gift from the Ballmer Group will go toward taking the Communities In Schools’ student-support model to 1,000 more schools, both in new locations and in places where the organization already operates.
As we commemorate the lives and history of Black peoples in the United States this February, SLJ has curated a list of fiction and nonfiction books that can be paired in the classroom to offer a nuanced presentation of major historical events of Black history. In this roundup, we feature books that cover some of the experiences lived by the enslaved in this country, from 1619 (the first slave ship) to 1865 (Juneteenth).
As veteran educators, for years we have encountered students who struggled with decoding and reading comprehension, yet were continually pushed on to the next grade. That led to questions: How did they get this far not knowing how to read? What reading program did they use in elementary school? What interventions are helping them catch up? Are parents aware that their child has reading challenges? Is a learning disability at play?
Shortly after taking office, schools Chancellor David Banks took aim at one of the most popular reading programs in New York City public schools, one that had been long embraced by his predecessors. The curriculum, created by Lucy Calkins at Columbia’s Teachers College, “has not worked,” he declared. “There’s a very different approach that we’re going to be looking to take.” Banks, along with Mayor Eric Adams, has vowed to reshape the way elementary schools teach children to read. Backed by a growing chorus of literacy experts, city officials argue the Teachers College approach hinges too heavily on independent reading without enough explicit instruction on the relationship between sounds and letters, known as phonics, leaving many students floundering.
Beginning in the upper elementary grades, research-backed study skills should be woven into the curriculum, argues psychology professor Daniel Willingham in a new book, "Outsmart Your Brain: Why Learning is Hard and How You Can Make It Easy." By the time children are in grade 12, our expectations are very high regarding independent learning. But the brain doesn’t come with a user’s manual, and independent learning calls for many separate skills. Once they’re expected to read something and commit it to memory because there’s going to be a quiz, for example, we need to be teaching them how to read hard texts and commit things to memory.
A lovely aphorism holds that education isn’t the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. But too often, neither are pails filled nor fires lit. Reading may be the most important skill we can give children. It’s the pilot light of that fire. Yet we fail to ignite that pilot light, so today some one in five adults in the United States struggles with basic literacy, and after more than 25 years of campaigns and fads, American children are still struggling to read. Eighth graders today are actually a hair worse at reading than their counterparts were in 1998. One explanation gaining ground is that, with the best of intentions, we grown-ups have bungled the task of teaching kids to read.
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