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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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Education Week
April 20, 2015

Digital reading and early literacy were among the hot topics at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, held here last week. Following is a round-up of four pending papers and studies to keep an eye on. The common threads among them: It's important to look at how digital devices, apps, and e-books are actually being used in classrooms, and the most promising literacy practices with these new tools involve lots of human-to-human interaction.

Education Next
April 20, 2015

“What’s going on at Success Academy?” Lots of folks are asking that question, thanks to the eye-popping test scores achieved by students at Eva Moskowitz’s network of New York City charter schools. Last year, 29 percent of New York City kids were considered proficient in English and 35 percent in math on the state’s challenging Common Core–aligned exams. For Success students, the proficiency rates were 64 percent in English and an astonishing 94 percent in math. Success students in the city’s poorest communities outperformed kids in the wealthiest suburbs. So what’s going on? Outwardly, Success is similar to other “no excuses” (Moskowitz dislikes that term) charter schools: students are called “scholars” and wear uniforms; a longer school day and year allow for about one-third more instruction time than district schools provide; rooms are named after the teacher’s alma mater; a culture of discipline and high expectations reigns. What separates Success, in my opinion, is a laser focus on what is being taught, and how.

The Washington Post
April 20, 2015

A third-grade teacher at a Denver elementary school decided to try to get to know her students better — most of whom come from low-income families — and gave them a writing assignment in which she hoped they would reveal something about themselves. Kyle Schwartz called the activity “I wish my teacher knew” — and she wound up learning more than she thought. According to this story by ABC News, Schwartz, who teachers at Doull Elementary School, said: “Ninety-two percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch. As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students’ lives and how to best support them. I just felt like there was something I didn’t know about my students.”

MassLive (MA)
April 20, 2015

A grassroots effort to get city kids reading at a young age has received national attention. The Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative (HELI) was named a "Pacesetter" by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. It was one of 30 literacy efforts across America to receive the award. HELI is a partnership between Holyoke Public Schools and local organizations to encourage high achievement for city children. Recent campaigns have focused on decreasing the number of chronically absent students by helping parents understand the importance of good attendance.

The Washington Post
April 17, 2015

Nancie Atwell is the renowned founder of the Center for Teaching and Learning, an award-winning non-profit independent K-12 demonstration school in Edgecomb, Maine, where she teaches seventh- and eighth-grade writing, reading and history. She has won numerous awards, including the first-ever $1 million Global Teacher Prize given last month by the Varkey Foundation. In this post, Atwell reclaims the term “innovation” from the tech world and identifies what she calls the simplest and most powerful classroom innovation that she has used in during her 40-year career.

Education Week
April 17, 2015

The toolkit for determining whether publishers' instructional materials are aligned to the Common Core State Standards has grown once again. Yesterday, the Council of the Great City Schools put out a series of rubrics, separated by grade level, to help schools and educators decide if the reading and math curriculum materials they're using meet the common core's expectations. Here's a page from the English/language arts rubric for 3rd grade.

THE Journal
April 17, 2015

To get a sense of what is working in districts around the country, we asked educators to share the technology tools that they are using to help implement CCSS and prepare students for the upcoming assessments. The Common Core standards emphasize an inquiry-based approach to learning, encouraging students to ask questions and persevere through challenges. According to Christine Fax-Huckaby, a special education academic support teacher in Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) n Chula Vista, CA, that inquiry-based approach can be difficult for special education teachers because "we don't want our kids to struggle. We don't want to lose them."

School Library Journal
April 17, 2015

On April 16, Common Sense Education, a division of Common Sense, the nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students, parents, and teachers thrive in a world of media and technology, released Digital Compass, an interactive gaming platform aiming to foster digital literacy and citizenship skills among sixth through ninth graders. Digital Compass addresses the issues that kids face in the digital world: cyberbullying, privacy and security, creative credit and copyright, information literacy, Internet safety, digital footprint and reputation, self-image and identity, relationships, and communication. It also strives to provide students with the freedom to explore how their digital interactions may impact real-life relationships and future opportunities. Designed as an animated choose-your-own-adventure game, Digital Compass puts students in the role of one of eight characters (four male, four female), each of whom is faced with a series of digital dilemmas. Students determine their character’s actions—and the story’s outcome—by making a series of decisions as the game progresses. Supplemental printable materials are tied to Common Core writing standards.

Christian Science Monitor
April 16, 2015

Like many of you, my love for poetry began with Shel Silverstein. I can still remember the long waiting list to check out “Where the Sidewalk Ends” in elementary school. When it was finally my turn and they placed the white and black hardbound book into my eager hands, I felt like I’d won the lottery. It was a treasure, and I was already mourning the day I’d have to pass it along to the next lucky kid in line. Silverstein’s poems transcend age and time. They are beloved by adults and children alike and remain for me today just as delightful as they were thirty years ago. From time to time, we pull the book from the shelf and read a few selections as a family.

School Library Journal
April 16, 2015

Bank Street College of Education has established an endowment to support the Center for Children’s Literature’s annual Writer-in-Residence in memory of Dorothy Carter and her life’s work. Carter was a children’s book author, a Broadway actress, the first African American member of the Bank Street College graduate faculty, the first recipient of the Lucy Sprague Mitchell Award, and a leader of the Bank Street Writer’s Lab. The first Writer-in-Residence is author Kwame Alexander. On April 6, after spending a day working with the children on their poetry, Kwame appeared at an event at Bank Street College open to the public. “Doing the Write Thing, 1969–2015: A Literary Legacy Conversation between Kwame Alexander, 2015 Newbery Medalist, and his father Dr. E. Curtis Alexander,” was moderated by historian and author Leonard S. Marcus.

Lake Oswego Review (OR)
April 16, 2015

When it comes to learning how to read, you’re never too young. That’s why the children’s librarians at the Lake Oswego Public Library are offering an Early Literacy Workshop designed to give parents and caregivers some simple, easy, fun ways to help a child — even a very young child — get on the road to reading. “We want to teach parents to get their children prepared so they will have the skills to become readers,” said librarian Amy Grimes. “And these are skills that can be used every day,” librarian Judy Dunlap said. “Parents will be able to recognize opportunities they didn’t know were there. They can enhance their child’s reading readiness at an early age.” The workshop will focus on six specific skills: vocabulary, print motivation, letter knowledge, print awareness, narrative skills and phonological awareness. It’s a list that sounds complicated, but all are skills that can be attained in a fun way, through talking, singing, reading, writing and playing.

KSL TV (Salt Lake City, UT)
April 16, 2015

At 83 years old, retired veteran Eugene Ward has no intention of slowing down. Ward lives in Heber City, nearly an hour from the West Valley elementary school where he volunteers. The octogenarian makes the round-trip drive at least twice a week. Ward, known to the children of Redwood Elementary School as "Mr. Gene," is a regular volunteer in the classroom of first-grade teacher Marta Welch. He has been teaching children to read for the past year, giving 10 to 15 minutes of critical individual coaching to each student. "They’ve become such confident readers because they have someone who is motivating them to reach their reading goals and really cares," she said. In a Title I school like Redwood Elementary, where nearly all parents work at least one job, the traditional "room parent" is a rare commodity. Increasingly, volunteer grandparents and retired teachers are filling that need.

Longview News-Journal (TX)
April 15, 2015

Second-grader William Barton settled into the chair and began reading from Mercer Mayer's "Happy Easter, Little Critter" to the volunteer teacher's assistant in front of him. The Oak Elementary student read about the picnic, the Easter candy and going to church as Judy Philabaum coaxed him along, asking questions, helping him with words and pointing out pictures to help him understand. All from 650 miles away. With the help of Skype, Philabaum, sitting in her home in Coshocton, Ohio, interacted with William through a laptop in a corner of Heidi Samuelson's classroom at Oak Elementary in Bartlett. Samuelson is Philabaum's daughter, and the pair have teamed up each school day for four years to help Samuelson's students with their reading.

Daily Herald (Chicago, IL)
April 15, 2015

When she was growing up, Octavia Spencer had trouble reading. Due to dyslexia, the words were jumbled, and she would have to start again and again, losing interest. But a teacher figured out that mystery stories might be a good way to keep Spencer engaged in reading. "I'm reading today because of Encyclopedia Brown," the 44-year-old Oscar-winning actress told students from Geneva Middle Schools North and South at an assembly.. Her love of mysteries; her love of movies by martial-arts actors Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee; and a fondness for science experiments inspired her to write the "Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective" books for middle school readers.

School Library Journal
April 15, 2015

Educators advocate for students to have more summer reading options — including more contemporary choices from diverse authors. They say it’s time to overhaul the whole idea of summer reading. Public librarians often dread the moment a child — or parent — walks into the library with the required reading list in hand. “Chances are the books are either old, out of print, or just plain boring for the kid or teen,” says SLJ reviews editor Kiera Parrott, who suggests 10 tips to flip summer reading assignments.

Sanford Herald (NC)
April 15, 2015

From deep in the Amazon rainforest to a village in the mountains of southeast China, seven third-graders from Deep River Elementary explored the world in just eight weeks. They didn't travel by plane or train, but instead through the pages of books. In February and March, struggling readers at Deep River Elementary video chatted with two volunteers, working with each for 20 minutes per week, to improve their reading ability through the “I Read, You Read” program. Students and volunteers alternated reading one page each to give students more time to practice.

Education Week
April 14, 2015

During Tuesday's Senate education committee markup of the bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act rewrite, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member and co-author of the bill, will offer an amendment to strengthen early-childhood education - -and it looks like she has the Republican support needed to do so. The amendment would create a competitive-grant program to provide funding for states that propose to improve coordination, quality, and access for early-childhood education. States would apply for three-year grants and provide matching funds to support "sustainable improvements and better coordination" of their early-learning and care systems.

WISTV (Lexington, SC)
April 14, 2015

Doctor Seuss once said, "The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." Students from around the State will live up to that motto today as they march to the State House to show the importance of reading. Thousands of students will walk to the State House to show they value their education. Normally about 1,500 students and parents take part in the South Carolina Read-In Day, but this year organizers say the number of registrations for the event has doubled. Officials with Richland School District One say the annual Read-In is an advocacy activity.

School Library Journal
April 14, 2015

During my tenure as a high school ESL teacher, I developed curricula that enabled students to practice their English language skills across all modalities by reading and creating visual narratives. Teaching graphic novels with ELLs requires specific planning and scaffolding of activities. Here are some of my best practices for using graphic novels in the ESL classroom. When planning to teach reading comprehension and literary analysis to ELLs using graphic novels, it is best to assess students’ prior experiences with visual narratives and subject interests.

eSchool News
April 14, 2015

Scholastic has launched student pre-registration (K-8th grades) for its 2015 Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge at scholastic.com/summer. Now in its ninth year, this free, global reading program motivates children to read for fun throughout the summer months by logging their reading minutes, earning rewards and helping to break the world record of 304,749,681 minutes read (set in summer 2014). The top elementary school that logs the most minutes this summer will win a visit from bestselling author Michael Northrop.

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald