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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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KQED Mindshift
May 27, 2016

Teens who read about the personal and intellectual struggles of scientists feel more motivated to learn science. That was the finding of a recent study out of Teachers College, Columbia University and the University of Washington. When students learn about how even famous scientists struggled, they began to see that learning and growing from setbacks is part of a successful professional journey. The list below includes rich picture books that could be read aloud to teens as well as graphic novels, short biographies and collections of biographical sketches that teachers could draw on for excerpts.

National Public Radio
May 27, 2016

For people who really love watching the Bee, there's simply nothing like it on television. Dr. Jacques Bailly, who gives all the kids their words, is funny and wry and dad-like, meticulous about making sure he's done exactly what he's supposed to do in giving them all the information. It's a great treat to watch smart kids go back and forth with Dr. Bailly, seeing whether they can get him to give up juuuuust a little more — to pronounce the word in a way that will clarify whether that middle syllable has an "i" or an "e" in it, for instance. He'll give them all the pronunciations, he'll give the word origin, he'll use it in a sentence.

School Library Journal
May 27, 2016

While attending the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico, I happened upon a children’s storytelling program. A large group of schoolchildren sat in rapt attention listening to a storyteller from Spain. The story he was telling sounded familiar, and I realized that it was from Arnold Lobel’s Mouse Tales. Lobel’s work often has the feel of emerging whole cloth from the oral tradition. What is even more remarkable is what Lobel achieved within the limitations of the vocabulary required by the beginning reader format. Beginning readers and early chapter books are essential in the development of children’s literacy. Their short chapters and simple vocabulary help young readers to feel successful and confident in their reading, which is key to helping them become lifelong readers. There are many classic beginning readers available in Spanish — either translations of works by masters like Lobel and Else Minarik or titles by Latin authors like Lulu Delacre.

Nebraska TV
May 27, 2016

Over 300 teachers signed up for "summer learning" -- a chance to discover new ways to better teach reading to their students. "The goal for the summer institute is to really learn all of the aspects needed to create a really rich English Arts environment for our students," said Shanna Gannon, director of Professional Development. Some of that focus is getting all kids to become readers and removing the barriers they may face, as well as building up their confidence.

National Public Radio
May 26, 2016

Alan Cohen is the brains behind this seemingly simple effort by the Dallas Independent School District to improve literacy by getting pre-school through second-grade students to express themselves in full sentences. Cohen is the district's former assistant superintendent for early childhood education, a subject he's researched for a long time. "If a teacher says, 'What color is this?' and holds up a red pen, and a child just says 'Red,' they've heard one word," says Cohen. "If the child says 'The color of that pen is red,' well, they have heard multiple words." He explains that means kids are hearing a greater number of words by the hundreds, or maybe thousands, each day of the year. Then, multiply that year, after year and the benefits are huge.

International Literacy Association Daily
May 26, 2016

From her time as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature to her work promoting summer reading, Kate DiCamillo is a champion for kids. Talking with Kate about writing, her latest bestseller Raymie Nightingale, and her work in getting kids — and the adults who care for them — excited about summer reading was an honor.

The Oregonian
May 26, 2016

Portland Public Schools, searching for a new way to teach young students to read and write after years of struggle, has decided to go it alone. At the strong urging of teachers and other educators who've sampled various reading series, Oregon's largest district rejected offerings from every major publisher. Instead, it decided to buy six components from five companies and combine them into a unique reading and writing curriculum of its own. It's becoming increasingly common for the nation's school districts to create their own elementary reading curriculum. Educators have realized that rigidly adhering to a single reading series, which used to be praised as showing "fidelity," poorly served a lot of children, including those learning English as a second language, said Donald Bear, a literacy expert and author of both mainstream and supplemental reading programs.

KQED Mindshift
May 25, 2016

Lesson study is a common professional development practice in Japan and is slowly gaining popularity in the U.S.; there’s even a lesson study app now. In San Francisco, many teachers are using the practice to help shift teaching practices towards the requirements of the Common Core State Standards. The Sanchez Elementary school teachers have been focusing on several points of mathematical practice throughout the year. They want students to find an entry point into the problem, persevere through difficult tasks, and explain their thinking to one another. After each observation the teachers discuss what they saw and brainstorm ways to keep pushing their students on these skills.

Education Week
May 25, 2016

In the vast majority of our schools, a significant disconnect still exists between what is happening in innovative companies that drive our economy and what teachers and students experience on the ground. Even with more schools continuing to integrate technology into daily practice, the tendency is to use technology as a tool to support the largely didactic nature of traditional education. Meanwhile, educational technology companies have followed the market and rushed in to design new products, many of which address traditional education practices rather than innovative approaches. Will these products help schools redefine the way they approach teaching and learning? Or will they help perpetuate the current system by making it easier for educators to teach the way they were taught?

School Library Journal
May 25, 2016

Summer presents numerous learning opportunities for children and teens — in and outside of the library. For a selection of program ideas, lists of valuable resources and recommended reading, as well as news related to summer learning, click through the links below.

National Public Radio
May 25, 2016

Sherman Alexie's new children's book stars Thunder Boy Smith, a little boy who was named after his dad. "People call him Big Thunder," the boy says of his father. "That nickname is a storm filling up the sky. People call me Little Thunder. That nickname makes me sound like a burp or a fart." Over the course of Thunder Boy Jr., the boy emerges from his dad's shadow to become his own person. "I was really interested in creating a picture book with a healthy Native American family where they respond to big questions in healthy ways," he says. "And what's the bigger question than, you know, 'Who am I?' "

National Public Radio
May 24, 2016

For the past decade or more Paul Tough has been one of the preeminent reporters translating education research for public consumption. His new, slim book is no exception, and it contains some surprises for fans of his previous work. One observation in the book is that with home visit programs and other types of coaching, even poor, and very stressed parents can be motivated to change how they treat infants and toddlers.

International Literacy Association Daily
May 24, 2016

Teachers must be readers. “I don’t have time to read” is like saying, “I don’t have time to breathe” if you are a writing teacher. Making time for reading is crucial. Pick books that you can visit again and again and again to mine for all the art and writing techniques you notice so you can share them with your writers. What message could be more powerful to your students than to explain that if you seem tired it’s because you stayed up too late reading? Or, how great would it be if you know books well enough to suggest good ones for every single reader in your class — regardless of his or her interests and past reading experiences? And then over time, because you and your students have become avid readers and rereaders, you can help them read with a writer’s eye, to understand what works about a piece of writing and find craft moves they want to try on their own.

ABC News (Philadelphia, PA)
May 24, 2016

Students from Village Elementary in Montgomery Township were cheered Monday as they arrived at Learning Ally in Princeton, the national nonprofit originally known as Recording for the Blind. These kids are among the one in every five students in America who suffers from dyslexia, a reading disability. The kids have been improving their reading skills with the use of audiobooks. Using smart phones, tablets or other devices, the students can hear and see the words they are reading. The class trip allowed the students to see where the audiobooks are recorded and they even got a chance to sit in a sound booth themselves to try it out.

Green Bay Press Gazette (WI)
May 24, 2016

Ah, the carefree days of summer. And although kiddos and parents may relish the summer break, the extended time away from the classroom often means students experience "summer slide," and forget some of the things they learned in school. Most students lose about two months in grade-level math skills over the summer months, according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Summer Learning Association. Students from low-income families also lose more than two months in reading achievement, although research shows their middle-class peers make slight gains in reading. So what can parents and families do to avoid — or at least minimize — summer slide? Green Bay area educators provide their top five recommendations.

The New York Times
May 23, 2016

The Jamaica experiment helps make the case that if we want to improve children’s opportunities for success, one of the most powerful potential levers for change is not the children themselves, but rather the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of the adults who surround them. More recent research has helped to uncover exactly how that change can take place. Psychologists including Mary Dozier at the University of Delaware and Philip Fisher at the University of Oregon have studied home-visiting interventions in which parents of infants and young children are provided with supportive, personalized coaching that identifies and reinforces the small moments — such as the face-to-face exchanges sometimes called “serve and return” interactions — that encourage attachment, warmth and trust between parent and child. The impact of this coaching can be powerful.

PBS NewsHour
May 23, 2016

On a recent Friday afternoon at a Brooklyn public school, the children of Sabrina Knight’s second-grade class listened intently as she used a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to talk about algorithms. Moments later, a student volunteer walked back and forth across the room to demonstrate looping, a technical term used in the field of computer programming. Knight’s young class is one in a growing number of public schools across the United States that are introducing computer science education into their curricula, in part to make up for the educational disparities among female and minority students that contribute to a professional void in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Such gaps have been recognized at the federal level. In January, President Barack Obama announced he would push to introduce a $4 billion initiative called Computer Science For All, which seeks to bring computer science education to many of the nation’s public schools over the next decade.

Education Week
May 23, 2016

It's hard enough for fluent English-speaking parents to understand complex test scores and measures used to track students' progress. But what about parents who don't speak English well and aren't fully literate in their native languages? A program called the Academic Parent-Teacher Teams is attempting to reach those parents and communicate students' achievements in a simpler way: graphs and data. The team model, also known as APTT, uses various methods at about 400 schools in a range of communities, including rural, urban and low-income.

The Hechinger Report
May 23, 2016

It’s been over five years since Kentucky adopted the Common Core, guidelines for what students need to know in math and the English language arts in each grade. Scores have been edging up ever since. By spring 2015, 54 percent of Kentucky elementary school students were proficient in the English language arts and 49 percent were proficient in math. Despite that improvement, within those numbers are hidden divisions that have existed for decades. Breaking the scores down shows that African-American students fare much worse than their white peers. In spring 2015, in the elementary grades, 33 percent of black students were proficient in reading, versus 58 percent of white students; in math, the breakdown was 31 percent to 52 percent, according to Kentucky Department of Education figures. And those gaps, in many cases, have widened.

The Atlantic
May 20, 2016

Experiential learning, in which children acquire knowledge by doing and via reflection on their experiences, is full of movement, imagination, and self-directed play. Yet such learning is increasingly rare in early-childhood classrooms in the U.S, where many young children spend their days sitting at tables and completing worksheets. Kindergarten and preschool in the U.S. have become more and more academic, rigorously structuring kids’ time, emphasizing assessment, drawing a firm line between “work” and “play”—and restricting kids’ physical movement. A study from the University of Virginia released earlier this year found that, compared to 1998, children today are spending far less time on self-directed learning—moving freely and doing activities that they themselves chose—and measurably more time in a passive learning environment.

"You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." — Paul Sweeney