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Today’s Literacy Headlines

Each weekday, Reading Rockets gathers interesting news headlines about reading and early education.

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Note: These links may expire after a week or so. Some websites require you to register first before seeing an article. Reading Rockets does not necessarily endorse these views or any others on these outside websites.


What’s driving a special education teacher shortage and how schools are responding (opens in a new window)

PBS NewsHour

January 31, 2024

More than 7.5 million American students have disabilities that qualify them for individual education plans. But teachers trained in this critical area are in short supply. Special education teachers and administrators share how the shortage is affecting them, and John Yang speaks with Kimber Wilkerson, professor of special education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to learn more.

Why so many kids are still missing school (opens in a new window)

Vox

January 25, 2024

Despite increased attention to the topic, chronic absenteeism is not exactly new — until recently, it was considered a “hidden educational crisis.” What’s new about chronic absenteeism is that it now affects students from a variety of demographic backgrounds, from those in the suburbs and rural areas to those in cities. The evidence has long been clear that absences contribute to lower achievement and worsen long-term economic outcomes for individual students and the country. Poor attendance influences whether a child can read proficiently by the end of third grade. By sixth grade, chronic absenteeism signals that a student might drop out of high school.

Growing Number of Parents Looking to Change Kids’ Schools, New Survey Shows (opens in a new window)

The 74

January 25, 2024

Parents are increasingly considering new schooling options for their kids, according to a survey released this month. After exploring available choices, a smaller number of families ultimately selected new schools but a majority reported wanting more information about school choice. Both local and out-of-district traditional public schools remained popular among school-searching families, followed by charter schools, private and religious schools and homeschooling.

Vashti Harrison’s Caldecott Win: Kind of a ‘Big’ Deal (opens in a new window)

Publishers Weekly

January 24, 2024

Author–illustrator Vashti Harrison happened to be in Miami to celebrate her father’s 89th birthday when—at 9:30 p.m., while sorting laundry—she received the news of her Caldecott win. “It’s a little bit of a jump scare when you realize there’s a whole room full of people calling to say congratulations to you,” Harrison said. The Caldecott news wasn’t her first artistically affirming call of the day: “I had received a call from the Coretta Scott King award committee around 1 in the afternoon,” with the happy information that Big had received both the King Author Honor and the King Illustrator Honor.

A Critical Thinking Framework for Elementary Students (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

January 24, 2024

Here are five instructional approaches educators can incorporate into their instruction to nurture deeper thinking. Some of these approaches, such as reason with evidence, will seem similar to other “contentless” programs professing to teach critical thinking skills. But others, such as say it in your own words or look for structure, are targeted at ensuring learners soundly understand content so that they can engage in complex thinking. You will likely notice that every single one of these approaches requires students to talk — to themselves, to a partner, or to the whole class. Dialogue, specifically in the context of teacher-led discussions, is essential for students to analyze, evaluate, and judge (i.e., do critical thinking). 

What Will It Take to Align Teacher Prep to the Science of Reading? California Offers Clues (opens in a new window)

Education Week (subscription required)

January 24, 2024

The most populous state in the nation is revamping how it credentials teachers to teach reading, replacing a test that has served as a controversial gatekeeper for teacher-candidates for more than 25 years. This shift in California comes as dozens of states are attempting to align their teacher-preparation programs to the research behind how kids learn to read. The debate around this decision in the Golden State is a microcosm of the issues arising from this process across the country.

2024 ALA Youth Media Awards Winner Round-Up! (opens in a new window)

School Library Journal

January 23, 2024

I’ll be honest. I can’t remember an ALA YMA announcement day that pleased me half as much as the one we had on Monday, January 22, 2024. With very few exceptions I pretty much adored every single book listed (that I knew about). It was humbling to see a couple titles that I didn’t even read in 2024 (my apologies to The Truth About Dragons which currently has LOADS of holds in my library). There were books that won that I didn’t even think had a chance but was delighted to see, and books that didn’t get bupkiss (more on those at the end of this post).

New America and SEAL to Co-host Webinar about Science of Reading and ELs (opens in a new window)

Language Magazine

January 23, 2024

Concerns have been raised that methodologies based on the Science of Reading may negatively impact English Learners (ELs). On February 8, New America and SEAL will co-host a webinar that will unpack the relationship between the Science of Reading and ELs, including the misconceptions about this much debated topic, best practices for EL-identified students, and implications for dual language programs. The first panel of experts will discuss the policy implications of the Science of Reading for ELs, and the second panel will feature state, district and instructional leaders at the forefront of Science of Reading implementation.

St. Louis NAACP Marshals Local Nonprofits to Help Make Sure Every Child Can Read (opens in a new window)

The 74

January 23, 2024

After more than a decade of struggles, nonprofits are leading the charge to help more Black students in St. Louis read at grade level. The St. Louis NAACP recently launched the “Right to Read” campaign, which focuses on improving proficiency and educational equity for students of color. Its mission: By 2030, all children in the city and county of St. Louis will receive the materials and support they need to help get them reading well by third grade.

The US Is the Fifth-Largest Spanish-Speaking Country. Where Are Our Bilingual Teachers? (opens in a new window)

Ed Surge

January 23, 2024

At the beginning of her now nearly 30-year career, Leslie M. Gauna was given a warning: Bilingual education wouldn’t be a viable career option in the long term. Yet nowadays the need for Spanish-speaking teachers in the United States is as strong as ever, with districts around the country struggling to hire them fast enough. The dearth of bilingual teachers is especially counterintuitive in Texas, where Gauna is a professor and where she conducted a qualitative research study on what she calls the “The Leaking Spanish Bilingual Education Teacher Pipeline.”

Eggers, Harrison, King Win 2024 Newbery, Caldecott, Printz Awards (opens in a new window)

Publishers Weekly

January 22, 2024

Dave Eggers has won the 2024 John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature, for his novel The Eyes and the Impossible (McSweeney’s/Knopf), illustrated by Shawn Harris, edited by Taylor Norman and Melanie Nolan. Vashti Harrison has won the 2024 Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book for children, for Big (Little, Brown), edited by Farrin Jacobs. And The Collectors: Stories, compiled by A.S. King (Dutton), edited by Andrew Karre, has won the 2024 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The Youth Media Awards were announced Monday morning, January 22, during the American Library Association’s LibLearnXconference in Baltimore.

Supporting Newcomer English Learners as a General Education Teacher (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

January 22, 2024

Newcomer ELLs, especially students with interrupted formal education (SIFEs), typically need one-on-one attention throughout their school day. Without such attention, general educators need to use alternate methods to address the needs of this special demographic. Even without a dedicated specialist, there are steps that teachers can take to support the success of this growing group of students in school. Here are some ideas. 

Two groups of scholars revive the debate over inquiry vs. direct instruction (opens in a new window)

Hechinger Report

January 22, 2024

Educators have long debated the best way to teach, especially the subjects of science and math. One side favors direct instruction, where teachers tell students what they need to know or students read it from textbooks. Some call it explicit or traditional instruction. The other side favors inquiry, where students conduct experiments and figure out the answers themselves like a scientist would. It’s also known as exploration, discovery learning or simply “scientific practices.”

Study: ‘Short Burst’ Tutoring in Literacy Shows Promise for Young Readers (opens in a new window)

The 74

January 18, 2024

Small, regular interactions with a reading tutor — about 5 to 7 minutes — are making a big impact on young students’ reading skills, new Stanford University research shows. First graders in Florida’s Broward County schools who participated in the program, called Chapter One, saw more substantial gains in reading fluency than those who didn’t receive the support, according to the study. They were also 9 percentage points less likely to be considered at risk on a district literacy test. The model — less costly than other programs — combines one-on-one instruction with computer-based activities.

Reading Comprehension Hinges on Building Knowledge. New Curricula Aim to Help (opens in a new window)

Education Week

January 18, 2024

Unlike other ELA curricula, which often give teachers choices of books or allow students to pick their own, knowledge-building programs feature tightly constructed sequences of text that are all thematically related. And while students still practice comprehension strategies—such as summarizing or inferring—the curriculum prioritizes deeply understanding the content, rather than isolated skill exercises. These programs stem from the idea, backed by research, that having a broad array of background knowledge makes individuals better readers. General world knowledge is correlated with reading-comprehension ability.

6 Evidence-Based Instructional Practices Drawn From Cognitive Science (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

January 18, 2024

Learning is complex. It depends on a myriad of cognitive skills, emotions, and behaviors alongside prior knowledge. Fortunately, the field of cognitive science has accumulated a rich body of evidence of how we learn (science of learning) and how to teach to promote learning (science of teaching). These research-backed strategies have the capacity to help students learn and retain more information.

A groundbreaking study shows kids learn better on paper, not screens. Now what? (opens in a new window)

The Guardian (UK)

January 17, 2024

A soon-to-be published study with children aged 10-12 from neuroscientists at Columbia University’s Teachers College indicates that for “deeper reading” there is a clear advantage to reading a text on paper, rather than on a screen, where “shallow reading was observed”. “Reading both expository and complex texts from paper seems to be consistently associated with deeper comprehension and learning” across the full range of social scientific literature. What does it mean when schools are going digital?

How ‘reading captains’ are fueling Philadelphia’s push to improve early literacy (opens in a new window)

Chalkbeat Philadelphia

January 17, 2024

Armed with a crash course of expert training in the science of reading, phonics, and other early literacy techniques, reading captains help prepare parents and guardians to reinforce the lessons kids are learning in the classroom. They fan out into neighborhoods with one goal: Make sure the children on your block have the support they need to read on grade level. Because right now, many of those children cannot. They are also plugged into a volunteer network that spans the city.

Mop-mop-swoosh-plop it’s rug-washing day in ‘Bábo’ (opens in a new window)

National Public Radio

January 17, 2024

A whole book about a bunch of kids washing rugs with their grandmother? Author Astrid Kamalyan says she’d understand if you heard that pitch and thought, “Huh?” But — of course — it is so much more than that. “It’s actually a book about Armenian joy and the beauty of Armenian family,” says Kamalyan. “It has so much of what made our childhoods so happy.” In Bábo: A Tale of Armenian Rug-Washing Day, a little girl named Tato steals some cherry plums before grabbing a brush. She joins friends and siblings outside, where they soak, soap, and wash the rugs.

Amid Literacy Push, Many States Still Don’t Prepare Teachers for Success, Report Finds (opens in a new window)

The 74

January 16, 2024

Too many states aren’t giving teachers the skills to teach reading effectively, according to an analysis by the National Center on Teacher Quality. The report, released by the nonprofit National Center on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), identifies five key areas where education authorities can arm teachers with better skills to teach the fundamentals of literacy — from establishing strict training and licensure standards for trainees to funding meaningful professional development to classroom veterans. While a handful of states were singled out for praise, others were criticized for inaction or half-measures. 

The rise and fall of Finland mania (opens in a new window)

Flypaper (Fordham Institute)

January 16, 2024

Finland became in short order the most widely celebrated and imitated education system in the world. Admiration eventually grew into a complete fever. Finland was Michael Jackson, educationally-speaking. Everybody wanted to moonwalk. There were breathless superfans screaming at the limousine. Then, Finland’s performance tanked. It has declined more than the performance of any other country in the assessment program as of the 2022 test administration, whose outcomes were reported just a few months ago. It’s a whale of a story. What happened?

Voices of Peaceful Protest (opens in a new window)

The New York Times

January 16, 2024

It’s been 40 years since Martin Luther King’s Birthday became a national holiday, and the question of how to celebrate it was probably best answered by the late John Lewis. The Georgia representative called it “a day on, not a day off,” “a day of action, a day of love, to give of ourselves to others and begin anew the building of the beloved community.” A new picture book about Lewis and two about Coretta Scott King make for illuminating reading on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday and throughout the year.

Preschool Studies Show Lagging Results. Why? (opens in a new window)

Education Week

January 11, 2024

Landmark studies of preschool programs in the 1960s and 70s showed that they could make a big difference for children from low-income families. But more recent experimental studies of preschool don’t show as strongly positive results for students’ academic and social outcomes. Why? That’s the question that Anamarie Whitaker, an assistant professor in human development and family sciences at the University of Delaware, set out to investigate in a new working paper. 

Tone More Important than Phonetics for Babies’ Language Development (opens in a new window)

Language Magazine

January 11, 2024

A new study by the University of Cambridge, has found that sing-song speech is vital in helping babies to learn a language and that babies do not begin to process phonetic information (the smallest sound units of speech) until they are around 7 months old. The study concluded that the rise and fall of tone—as in a nursery rhyme—is crucial to an infant’s processing of information and language.

3 New Studies to Know on Screening Students for Dyslexia (opens in a new window)

Education Week

January 10, 2024

Early, universal screening for reading disabilities is fast gaining traction among states, with 46 states now requiring some kind of dyslexia assessment in the early grades. Emerging research suggests new ways educators should think about how to identify dyslexia, particularly among vulnerable populations.

From a Young Age, Children Tune in to Audiobooks (opens in a new window)

School Library Journal

January 09, 2024

Children are eager listeners—of audiobooks, according to a new Library Journal / School Library Journal survey. Almost all public libraries now carry audiobooks for teens and children, the survey of nearly 500 public librarians found. “Kids in our community listen to audiobooks as they are learning to read and then continue to listen as they grow older, even if they are able to read the story,” according to Sammy Nieman, youth services librarian at Sun Prairie (WI) Public Library.

A Nationwide Culture of Inclusion Promotes Happiness (opens in a new window)

New America

January 09, 2024

The federal government recently released an updated policy statement on the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs. The statement outlines the many academic benefits of inclusion for young children with disabilities. Notably, it also emphasizes the positive impact inclusion has on all children in the classroom. Children with and without disabilities learning together have the opportunity to strengthen their social emotional skills, build new friendships, learn about human diversity, and participate in creating a sense of belonging.

Bilingualism May Improve Attention Control (opens in a new window)

Language Magazine

January 09, 2024

“Our results showed that bilinguals seem to be more efficient at ignoring information that’s irrelevant, rather than suppressing—or inhibiting information,” deMeurisse said. “One explanation for this is that bilinguals are constantly switching between two languages and need to shift their attention away from the language not in use.” An example of this could be an English- and Spanish-speaking person having a conversation in Spanish—both languages are active yet English is cognitively put on hold but ready to be deployed as needed.

No, AI Can’t Teach Children to Read. Yet (opens in a new window)

Education Week

January 08, 2024

We know that many children are failing to learn to read in our nation’s classrooms. So it’s tempting to hope that tutoring by artificial intelligence could provide a solution. But how close are we to this for our earliest readers? And if AI isn’t yet the solution, are we making full use of digital tools that can help? We decided to find out about AI. 

Four lessons from post-pandemic tutoring research (opens in a new window)

KQED Mindshift

January 08, 2024

Almost 40% of U.S. public schools say they’re offering high-dosage tutoring and more than one out of 10 students (11%) are receiving it this 2023-24 school year. Here are four lessons: (1) timning matters, (2) There’s a hiring dilemma, (3) we need more research on the effectiveness of video tutoring, and (4) humans and machines could take turns. 

One-on-One Tutoring Program Bets Big on Teaching Kindergartners to Read (opens in a new window)

The 74

January 04, 2024

High-dosage tutoring is one of the most effective tools to help students recover from lost learning, including in subjects like reading, where many are far behind. But what if schools didn’t wait until students fell behind? What if all kindergartners got a reading tutor from the start? That’s what the early-literacy tutoring company Once is testing out. They have a hunch the results will look good. 

As Literacy Lags, Hochul Proposes Changing How Schools Teach Reading (opens in a new window)

The New York Times

January 03, 2024

Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a major shift in education policy that could transform the way many schools teach reading across New York. The proposal comes as education experts point to increasing evidence that the state’s approach to literacy is failing. Last year, fewer than half of New York’s third graders were proficient on state reading tests. Ms. Hochul said she would call for the state Education Department to require school districts to certify that their curriculums have embraced “scientifically proven” approaches to literacy by September 2025.

What parents of English learners need to know (opens in a new window)

Ed Source

January 03, 2024

When your child is an English learner, it can be confusing and difficult to understand whether they are progressing normally toward proficiency in the language and what they need to do to be reclassified as fluent and English proficient. Here’s a quick guide to how schools classify students as English learners, what they have to provide for students to help them learn English, what criteria they take into account in reclassifying them as proficient in English, and why reclassification matters.

Love Stories: Kate DiCamillo on the Hope, Humor, and Love that Fill her Books (opens in a new window)

School Library Journal

January 03, 2024

Kate DiCamillo hardly needs an introduction. The beloved author of Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, and Flora & Ulysses has two Newbery Medals and a Newbery Honor under her belt, and many of her books have been adapted for the theater and the screen. But even more impressive than her long list of accolades are her words themselves. Her books, filled with humor, honesty, and an almost aching kind of hope, have made millions of readers around the world feel less alone.

Sandra Day O’Connor saw civics education as key to the future of democracy (opens in a new window)

The Conversation

January 03, 2024

Beyond her trailblazing role as the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor considered iCivics – a civics education nonprofit founded after she retired from the court – to be her “most important legacy.” “The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool,” O’Connor once stated. “It must be taught and learned by each new generation.”

Reading Aloud to Students Shouldn’t Get Lost in Shift to ‘Science of Reading,’ Teachers Say (opens in a new window)

Education Week

December 28, 2023

We’ve heard a lot about the science of reading this year. Within this scripted method of how to make children proficient readers, there’s one critical element that’s been largely overlooked: the joy of reading. As efforts toward developing strong readers go, reading aloud to children is one that teachers’ anecdotes and research inform us is worthwhile. Here’s a glance at why reading out loud to students matters, the barriers teachers face in executing the read aloud, and the benefits of making it happen.

A Half-Century Quest to Explain Dyslexia (opens in a new window)

Harvard Medicine Magazine

December 28, 2023

For decades, researching dyslexia has been a passion and a fascination for Albert Galaburda, the Emily Fisher Landau Professor of Neurology, Emeritus, at HMS. Ask him why, and he’ll likely say that, for him, it is a quest to untangle a condition shaped by so many facets of who we are. “It extends from sociology to molecular biology,” he says. “It has to do with how genes regulate themselves, but also with our brains, our schools, our education system, and our cultural attitudes toward reading.”

The ‘Science of Reading’ in 2023: 4 Important Developments (opens in a new window)

Education Week

December 28, 2023

One of the most fundamental skills students learn in school is still at the forefront of the national education conversation—how kids learn to read. The “science of reading” movement pushed forward in 2023, with at least five more states passing new laws designed to bring reading instruction in line with evidence-based practice. At the same time, opposition to these attempts to overhaul classroom practice has surfaced, too, with one state seeing the first major legal challenge to new legislation. Looking back over the year, Education Week rounded up four important developments in reading instruction policy and practice. 

The Ten Best Children’s Books of 2023 (opens in a new window)

Smithsonian Magazine

December 28, 2023

Great books can make you feel like you are actually in them; they whisk you away to imaginary worlds and far-off places. Many of this year’s best children’s books had this effect. Shana Gozansky’s My Art Book of Adventure drops readers into famous works of art, like Thomas Moran’s The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Edvard Munch’s The Sun. Nikki Grimes’ A Walk in the Woods envelops us in a thick forest, home to garter snakes, owls and white-tailed deer. And David LaRochelle’s latest book transports us to a magical land of 100 Mighty Dragons All Named Broccoli.

Advocates Warn Expiring COVID Funds Could Threaten Key Summer & Afterschool Learning Programs Across Indiana (opens in a new window)

The 74

December 27, 2023

Indiana state officials must continue to fund strong afterschool and summer learning programs that have helped many students catch up after the pandemic — even when government money runs out, according to a new report from advocates. Programs that add hours and support to the school day, are especially critical for low-income students who were set back the most during the pandemic, according to the report, “The Expanded Classroom.” Those students’ families can’t pay for tutoring, museum visits, and arts activities that more affluent families can.

Helping a Child Navigate Grief? Open a Picture Book. (opens in a new window)

The New York Times

December 27, 2023

Kids have questions about death, and we don’t always have answers. In fact, we rarely do; we have questions of our own! “There are no words” might be all the rage in condolence cards, but there are words, and you can find them in these new picture books about grief. 

Michigan is spending $107M more on pre-K − here’s what the money will buy (opens in a new window)

The Conversation

December 27, 2023

First, new funding is meant to increase the number of children served and get kids off waitlists. Second, additional funding is targeted to better meet the needs of working families. Finally, $35 million is slated for classroom startup grants of $25,000 to help open new classrooms and expand existing programs in public schools and community-based organizations.

Recognizing Language Disorders in Multilingual Children (opens in a new window)

Language Magazine

December 26, 2023

Children learn at their own pace, and therefore, some meet communication milestones earlier or later than others. Multilingual children develop language skills progressively, just as monolingual children do. When children do not meet developmental milestones that are typically displayed by children of the same age and learning the same language, families may be concerned. Here are some areas to consider more closely when there are communication concerns in multilingual children.

Nine education stories that defined 2023 (opens in a new window)

Chalkbeat

December 26, 2023

Three years after the COVID pandemic began, schools across America are still finding their new normal. School communities are desperately trying to reduce chronically absent students, struggling with how to spend waning federal COVID relief dollars, implementing new “science of reading” laws, and waffling on how ChatGPT should (or should not) be a part of classrooms. Here are nine storylines from Chalkbeat reporters across the country that dove into those topics.

Disappointment and hope: K–12’s biggest stories from 2023 (opens in a new window)

Flypaper (Fordham Institute)

December 21, 2023

This year marked the fortieth anniversary of “A Nation at Risk,” the seminal report that did so much to reshape America’s modern education landscape. In the four decades since its publication, there have been unsung highs—like the rise in student achievement in the early aughts—and unwelcome lows, such as the post-Covid achievement crash that’s still with us. Indeed, nary a year has passed without both positive and negative developments, many of them traceable to the education-quake that NCLB triggered. This past year was no different. Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest ed headlines from 2023.

5 Theater Games to Build Young Learners’ Executive Functioning (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

December 21, 2023

Studies have shown a link between dramatic play games and emotional control in children. In my work as an educator, I use theater training to help all students grow their self-regulation. Research demonstrates that children who have strong self-regulation skills at a young age are more likely to have academic success and greater physical and mental health as adolescents and adults. Use these games as part of your morning meetings, body breaks, or closing circles. There’s ample opportunity to tie in curriculum as well.

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