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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
September 27, 2016

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants, which were awarded to 20 states in 2011-13, encouraged winners to invest in a quality rating system for early-childhood programs—and even states that didn't get win the grant money went along with the program, says a report from Regional Educational Laboratory-Midwest. But in adopting these rating systems, states are struggling with how to create reliable ratings at a sustainable cost, the REL-Midwest report said. REL-Midwest examined how the Race to the Top competition shifted the early-childhood landscape in the seven states that are a part of its region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Quality rating and improvement systems are seen as an important way to improve preschools and to provide information to parents. Now present in all but one state, these systems generally provide an easy-to-understand rating system for families to use to rank early-childhood programs, often with one star denoting basic quality and five stars denoting the highest quality.

International Literacy Association Daily
September 27, 2016

Though some researchers disagree, as a language arts teacher for 10 years in Chicago, I can testify that students (even students lacking foundational reading skills) can make significant gains in reading comprehension in one year. My students made such gains in their reading comprehension through daily opportunities to actively and purposefully read difficult text with teacher support. Although there are many research-based reading strategies, I stand strong with close reading. It is one of the most effective and manageable ways to read and comprehend difficult text.

WBAP Radio (Ft. Worth, TX)
September 27, 2016

The Fort Worth Independent School District has launched its campaign to help 100 percent of third graders read at grade level by 2025. Right now, just 30 percent of third graders are meeting current standards. Mayor Betsy Price, Superintendent Kent Scribner and BNSF Railroad Executive Chairman Matthew Rose met with kids at Oakhurst Elementary School Monday morning. “Our businesses know they have to have a steady stream of workers coming in,” Price said after reading a story to kids. The Fort Worth Literacy Partnership aims to bring together business, education and philanthropic leaders. Ft. Worth is also developing a web site that lets families track and compare reading achievement at the city’s 83 elementary campuses.

The New York Times
September 27, 2016

The movement calling for more diversity in children’s books has been gaining momentum in the last couple of years, and publishers are responding. There is still a big gap – now as in the past, the vast majority of American children’s books published feature white protagonists. But as the children’s books editor here at The Times, I’m definitely seeing a greater number of books by diverse authors and featuring children of different races and ethnicities. We Need Diverse Books is the unofficial home of the movement, and their web site is a good resource for reading lists and other useful news and information. Here is my own list of some great kids books with diverse characters – some classics and personal favorites, some new titles generating excitement.

The New York Times
September 26, 2016

Two weeks ago, classes began in this building at 212 East 93rd Street, the new home of the Windward School, which also has campuses north of the city in White Plains. Its mission is to teach children how to handle learning disabilities. The aim is to return them as quickly as possible with the skills to thrive in mainstream schools, said the head of school, John J. Russell.“In order to get in, you have to fail the admissions test,” Dr. Russell said. “When you start doing well, we ask you to leave. No treading water here.” Children at the school draw words in the air, write them on paper, shape letters out of clay, read from books or the classroom board. The parent of one fourth grader said her son, who could barely read a year ago, now confidently pages through this newspaper. (Or scrolls its digital incarnations.)

East Bay Times (CA)
September 26, 2016

A playground is a good place to get started on word skills. Little things can add up — little things like making small talk, especially with young children. Officer Willie Wilkins Playground became the latest outpost in the “Too Small to Fail” campaign to encourage early literacy. All around the play structure, newly installed signs in English and Spanish bore simple messages and illustrations. “Let’s talk about food,” one read. Others suggested talking about “the city,” letters, books, the bus, clothes, sunshine, hands and feet, and numbers. The idea is to get parents and caregivers to talk, read and sing with young children starting at birth. Simple things like describing ordinary objects in plain sight, singing and reading aloud benefit a baby’s ability to learn new words and concepts, building blocks for a brighter future. Those benefits are available to anyone who makes the effort, transcending the boundaries imposed by income, researchers have found.

The Washington Post
September 26, 2016

Given all the depressing statistics about children’s reading habits and screen-time addictions, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday served as a loud-and-proud rebuttal. The place was jam-packed with children and teenagers at the annual National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress. Kids came for the literary stars of their orbit: Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian American novelist, recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award and author of the new book “Untwine”; Lois Lowry , the Newbery Medal-winning juggernaut and creator of the “The Giver” whose latest work is actually a memoir, “Looking Back”; Gene Luen Yang, the graphic novelist who last week was awarded one of this year’s 23 MacArthur “genius grants”; and Meg Medina, the Cuban American author whose newest novel, “Burn Baby Burn” just made the longlist for this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

KSFY (Sioux Falls, SD)
September 26, 2016

It was a morning of reading for thousands of kids in the Sioux Empire. The United Way hosted its 16th Annual Reading Festival in Sioux Falls Saturday, working to give all children the gift of reading. "Early childhood literacy is one of the most important things you can do for a child's development," Julia Brown, a United Way Reading Festival coordinator, said. "Reading level by grade three is the biggest indicator of a child's future success, so the earlier you can get them started with reading and the love of reading, the more successful they'll be later in life."

Education Week
September 23, 2016

States and school districts that get federal funding to support students who are English-language learners, can use that money to support long-term ELLs and ELLs in special education, as well as to help figure out how those students are progressing, according to new Every Student Succeeds Act guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education Friday. The guidance also makes it clear that districts and states can use their English Language Acquisition grants--provided through a $737 million program also known as Title III of ESSA for many of the same purposes as they did under No Child Left Behind. That's true even though schools' accountability for ensuring ELLs progress in their English-proficiency has moved to Title I of the law, along with accountability for all other groups of kids. That means that states are allowed to use their Title III funds to help identify ELLs who are struggling, make sure their English-language proficiency tests match up with English-language proficiency standards, and align state content standards with English-language proficiency standards. And districts can use Title III funds to help notify parents that their child is an English-learner.

The Atlantic
September 23, 2016

Alison Gopnik’s latest book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, makes a compelling case that parents should get out of the way of children’s natural drive to learn through play and observation of the world. The book explains how young children decide whom to believe; why they categorize; and how their intuitive understanding of statistics, mass, and gravity operates. Especially compelling are the sections on the role of experimentation and playing pretend in learning. Gopnik even explains the incessant “why” questions common in 3-year-olds. Gopnik musters all this evidence in an attempt to persuade parents and educators to stop trying to mold children into adults with some desirable mix of characteristics, the way a carpenter might build a cabinet from a set of plans. Instead, we adults should model ourselves on gardeners, who create a nurturing ecosystem for children to flourish, but accept our limited ability to control or even predict the outcome of. Rather than viewing parenting as an activity or skill to be mastered, adults should simply be parents.

School Library Journal
September 23, 2016

On Saturday, September 24, 2016, on the National Mall in Washington, DC, a place once bordered by “pens for enslaved people bound for the Deep South,” the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will open its doors. Originally conceived of as a memorial, this testament to the history, culture, and contributions of African Americans to our nation has been 100 years in the making. In her book How to Build a Museum (Viking, 2016; Gr 5 Up), distinguished author Tonya Bolden discusses the museum’s long road to fruition, the visions of its director, designers, and architects, and the collection.

The Washington Post
September 22, 2016

Two years ago, Gene Luen Yang made a particular splash at the National Book Festival. He was asked to give a speech at the event’s Friday-night gala, ahead of such literary luminaries as E.L. Doctorow. But Yang had not come to talk about pure prose. He had come to talk comics. On Saturday evening, Yang — a two-time National Book Award finalist (“American Born Chinese” and “Boxers & Saints”) — will return to the National Book Festival as headliner of the Graphic Novel Night pavilion, at the Washington Convention Center, in conversation with The Post’s Comic Riffs. Just days ahead of that talk, Yang, a Bay Area-based cartoonist/educator, was named a 2016 MacArthur “genius grant” fellow — one of two visual storytellers to receive that honor this year.

WXYZ Detroit
September 22, 2016

A new law will require schools hold third-graders back if they fail standardized state and local assessments. This will likely impact tens of thousands of students across the state. Less than half of third graders were found to be proficient in English language arts on the M-STEP state assessment last spring. The early literacy bill passed in the Michigan Legislature on Wednesday and now is headed to the governor’s desk for final approval. Republican Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign the bill into law. Proponents say the goal is to make sure kids know how to read, so they don’t fall behind when given reading assignments in 4th grade.

International Literacy Association Daily
September 22, 2016

Last year, Anne Bond received what may have been the most daunting assignment of her college career. Bond and her classmates in Loyola University Chicago’s reading teacher program were each tasked with crafting a curriculum for books selected by Illinois Reads, an initiative of the Illinois Reading Council that promotes literacy by highlighting the work of local authors. But this was more than just a classroom exercise—the students were told their work would be made available to teachers statewide for use in their classrooms.

National Public Radio
September 21, 2016

45 CFR Chapter XIII RIN 0970-AC63. That's the official name of the newly-revised government standards for running a Head Start program. If the name doesn't grab you, this should: The Department of Health and Human Services says it's the first "comprehensive" revision of Head Start rules since they first published them in 1975. And the changes are, in a word, big. Or two words: "incredibly impressive." That's according to NYU's Pamela Morris, who's been lead researcher on a number of independent studies of Head Start. Why? Several reasons. One big one: longer hours. The new standards go into effect this November and are designed to spur other improvements: more professional development and coaching for teachers; new curriculum and assessment requirements; and a new "early learning outcomes framework" that NYU's Morris calls "very responsive to the newest research on brain development"

School Library Journal
September 21, 2016

As summer winds down and the school year kicks into high gear, librarians face a transitional period. Public librarians are finally taking their first breath since May now that summer reading has come to a close. School librarians are diving head first into the back-to-school mayhem. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work, ignoring opportunities for successful collaboration. Lines do not have to be firmly drawn in the sand between the school and public libraries; librarians from both sides can come together to share resources and empower students. Here are a few tips to help bridge the gap and encourage students to make the most of both their school and public library resources.

PBS NewsHour
September 21, 2016

Carla Hayden, the new Librarian of Congress, tells Jeffrey Brown about her favorite children’s book. “Bright April” is a story about a young African-American girl named April who experiences racial prejudice. It is also the story of her bright personality and her 10th birthday and the surprise it brought. Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress last week. She is the first woman and the first African-American to lead the national library, having been nominated by President Obama earlier this year.

Education Week
September 20, 2016

The audio format has actually been shown to aid more readers in the K-12 classroom—particularly those who struggle to read print books. Audio recordings have long been used as a reading-intervention assist, according to a 2012 study by the American Association of Schools Libraries. But after surveying the effects of audiobooks on a group of elementary students, the researchers found audiobooks improved students' reading scores, increased students' positive attitudes about their reading ability, and offered students more personal choice in what they read. A service called Learning Ally that syncs written text with audiobooks helped some students with dyslexia become avid readers, wrote teacher Kyle Redford in a 2015 blog post for Education Week Teacher.

KSAT (San Antonio, TX)
September 20, 2016

Some may consider news cut and dry, but one entrepreneur wanted it to actually help kids improve their reading skills. "[I thought], what if we used news stories as a teaching tool to change the way kids learn?" said Matthew Gross, founder of Newsela. "It could [even] help them to become better readers." The concept became the formula for Newsela, a New York-based startup that collects timely stories from a variety of sources and rewrites the content at multiple reading levels. Launched in 2013, Newsela is tailored for students in grades 2 through 12.

International Literacy Association Daily
September 20, 2016

In a study of over 8,000 primary and secondary students conducted in England and supported by the National Literacy Trust, one half of the participants reported not only liking to read but also believing themselves to be proficient readers. The research suggested that three overriding goals are vital to the cause of improved reading performance. First, create a culture that encourages enthusiastic readers. The study suggested matching the actual interests of readers with the menu of reading materials. Second, engage boys with reading by involving male role models and engaging boys in the creation of the school’s culture. Third, support parents’ efforts to encourage children’s reading at home through home–school practices to create a habit of student reading.

"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb