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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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Press-Citizen (Iowa City, IA)
February 24, 2017

Over the past five years, John Kenyon has seen hundreds of story submissions from first- through eighth-grade Iowa City area students. As the executive director for the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature for over five years, Kenyon pores over the student submissions for the City of Literature's One Book Two Book children's literature festival each year. This year, the festival will reward over 80 local kids for their creative writing. The authors who come to the festival are also key to capturing the attention and creativity of the kids, Kenyon said. That's why landing graphic novelist and MacArthur Genius Grant winner Gene Luen Yang was such a big get for the festival.

Durango Herald (CO)
February 24, 2017

A full house of about 18 kiddos, aged 9 months to almost 3, sat, slept and jumped around during Baby Storytime. The storytime was quick: about 15 or 20 minutes. But in that time, the children were led through multiple songs – in English and Spanish; they were taught weather terms in sign language; were read stories; had an impromptu dance party; and finished off the session with music and a chance to play with toys and hang out. Playing and keeping the atmosphere light is the point of early literacy, say library staff members. im Spishock, one of the storytime hosts, says learning sounds is the earliest part of eventually learning to read, and by offering more than one type of sound and motion (Spanish, sign language), children are exposed to various avenues of learning.

Redlands Daily Facts (CA)
February 24, 2017

One book is bringing the community at Kimberly Elementary School together in hopes of fostering a love of reading. For the second year in a row, the school is part of the “One Book, One School” program, an initiative that promotes family literacy and showcases the benefits of reading aloud whether in the classroom or at home. Kimberly kicked off its participation in the program Monday with a skit to announce this year’s title — “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” by Julie Andrews Edwards.

U.S. News and World Report
February 24, 2017

Mississippi lawmakers could expand a program enabling students to use state money to attend schools with specialized help for dyslexia. Those could be private or parochial schools, or public schools outside the district where a student lives. House Bill 1046 would add grades 7 through 12 to an existing program for grades 1 through 6. The state funding is about $5,000 per student, and Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell of Southaven said Thursday that 165 students are using the program this year. Schools in Hattiesburg, Petal, Jackson and Greenwood specialize in dyslexia therapy.

National Public Radio
February 23, 2017

About 1 out of every 10 public school students in the United States right now is learning to speak English. They're called ELLs, for "English Language Learners." There are nearly 5 million of them, and educating them — in English and all the other subjects and skills they'll need — is one of the biggest challenges in U.S. public education today. As part of our reporting project, 5 Million Voices, we set out to gather up all the data and information we could find about who these students are and how they're being taught. Here's our snapshot. The vast majority — some 3.8 million ELL students — speak Spanish. But there are lots of other languages too, including Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Arabic and Vietnamese. Most ELLs were born in the United States, and are U.S. citizens.

Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, TX)
February 23, 2017

It’s never too early to share multicultural books with children. Our city’s population is growing and becoming more multicultural and diverse. By incorporating multicultural literature into your child’s reading experiences, you will not only share that diversity but also bring learning and understanding about our differences and similarities. Diverse and multicultural books don’t need to stay on the shelf waiting for a particular holiday or commemoration, but instead, should be part of regular story times. Books that have characters that resemble us and are culturally authentic are a good start to sharing multiculturalism. Here is just a sampling of some of the literature that will be shared. Each one of these books celebrates who you are — diverse, multicultural, smart, funny and, most importantly, you!

Education Week
February 23, 2017

Briana Sotomayor, a 4th grader in rural Jackson County, W.V., wrote an award-winning essay for her district's drug-and-alcohol prevention competition. In this video, Briana describes an approach to essay writing used in many elementary classrooms across the country in which the image of a hamburger serves as a graphic organizer. The top bun is the thesis, the bottom bun the conclusion, and the meat, cheese, and veggies—the details—are sandwiched in between. Rhonda Jelich, the district's director of elementary education and staff development, explained to Education Week that the hamburger model is one of many age-appropriate methods for giving all students a writing structure. And since kids like hearing from kids, it's the kind of short video teachers may want to show in their classrooms to get students going with the literacy strategy.

Education Week
February 23, 2017

Rhode Island is moving forward with a statewide personalized learning initiative that aims to support a variety of efforts to tailor education to the unique needs of each student. The $2 million public-private effort is being headed by Richard Culatta, the state's chief innovation officer and the former director of the office of educational technology at the federal education department. The initiative could also signal broader shifts. With strong proponents of a smaller federal government now in the White House and U.S. Department of Education, the push for educational innovation will likely come from states, rather than Washington. The new initiative will eventually include direct funding to such "lighthouse" schools, to be funded primarily by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, created by pediatrician Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Texas Public Radio (San Antonio, TX)
February 22, 2017

There’s concern in Bexar County that the number of third graders reading on grade level is low. That leaves them at risk for dropping out of high school, unemployment or worse. A tutoring program through SAReads is hoping to reverse the trend. Teachers are using a method of instruction that researchers say is proven, but isn’t used enough. The method of instruction is called scientifically based reading instruction, or SBRI. Louisa Moats is a leading researcher in reading education. She says teachers not knowing how to teach reading is a national problem. Moats says teachers are not the ones at fault; it’s the licensing process. She says most universities are not providing the right instruction. In 2000, after decades of debate about which reading method was best, Congress mandated that the National Reading Panel convene to do a scientific review. They published a report which identified that scientific methods like SBRI are the only reading techniques that work.

Education Week
February 22, 2017

Head Start, the venerable 52-year-old federal preschool program for children from low-income families, could be serve a role in improving the early-education workforce as a whole, says a new report from Bellwether Education Partners. In The Best Teachers for our Littlest Learners: Lessons from Head Start's Last Decade, authors Marnie Kaplan and Sara Mead note that Head Start has led the way in requiring its teachers to have bachelor's degrees; currently 74 percent of Head Start teachers have a bachelor's degree or beyond in early childhood or a related field. The report offers several suggestions, including making teacher compensation a priority and including Head Start in overall state policies relating to early childhood. But one of its most interesting proposals is to use Head Start as a vehicle for "piloting innovative programs with the power to change the broader early-childhood landscape."

Minneapolis Star Tribune (MN)
February 22, 2017

Three years ago, a scrappy group of parents and educators launched the first Dyslexia Day at the State Capitol in a small conference room, offering moving testimony from children who said their schools couldn’t help them. On Tuesday, the advocacy group’s annual rally spread across the Capitol rotunda, where several hundred parents and children called attention to a hidden disability that affects as many as one in 10 children. Dyslexia wasn’t even recognized as a specific learning disability by the Minnesota Department of Education until 2015. Children who spoke at Tuesday’s rally said they wished schools understood more. This year’s legislative agenda for Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota includes requiring schools to boost efforts to identify kids with dyslexia, provide reading instruction that meets their needs, and prepare teachers for the task.

The Atlantic
February 21, 2017

For elementary- and middle-school students, historical fiction can provide a helpful way into difficult subjects—for example, the Holocaust (Number the Stars), the civil-rights movement (The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963), or slavery and racism in America’s founding (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation). Maureen Costello, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance initiative, explained in a phone interview that, for certain topics such as slavery, teachers can employ the genre to “talk about the subject in a child appropriate way.” But beyond providing an introduction to troubling issues, historical fiction can offer the chance, if taught conscientiously, to engage students with multiple perspectives, which are essential to understanding history; to help students comprehend historical patterns and political analogies; and to introduce students to historiography — how history is written and studied.

KQED Mindshift
February 21, 2017

In the last few years there has been more focus on writing in classrooms and on tests, but many students still have difficulty expressing their ideas on paper. Often students struggle to begin writing, so some teachers have shifted assignments to allow students to write about something they care about, or to provide an authentic audience for written work. While these strategies are important parts of making learning relevant to students, they may not be enough on their own to improve the quality of writing. Practice is important, but how can teachers ensure students are practicing good habits?

National Public Radio
February 21, 2017

During Betsy DeVos' bitter confirmation hearing last month for education secretary, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet pointed to Denver as a potential national model of a big city school district that's found an innovative, balanced approach to school choice. Denver Superintendent Tom Boasburg says at its core, choice in the city is focused on leveling the education playing field — or as he puts it, "How do we promote greater equity for our highest-need families?" But there are still big gaps in access to quality schools; choice has done little to narrow achievement gaps by income and race; poorer families point to on-going transportation challenges; and choice in Denver includes some painful choices about re-booting and closing under-performing schools, mostly in neighborhoods with some of the most vulnerable students. It all raises important questions about the promise and limitations of choice to bridge stubborn access and equity gaps in education.

The New York Times
February 21, 2017

One night nearly 140 years ago, Samuel Clemens told his young daughters Clara and Susie a bedtime story about a poor boy who eats a magic flower that gives him the ability to talk to animals. Storytelling was a nightly ritual in the Clemens home. But something about this particular tale must have stuck with Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, because he decided to jot down some notes about it. The story might have ended there, lost to history. But decades later, the scholar John Bird was searching the Twain archives at the University of California, Berkeley, when he came across the notes for the story, which Twain titled “Oleomargarine.” Mr. Bird was astonished to find a richly imagined fable, in Twain’s inimitable voice. He and other scholars believe it may be the only written remnant of a children’s fairy tale from Twain.

The New York Times
February 17, 2017

Mo Willems and Oliver Jeffers — two of the most beloved, and singular, creators of children’s picture books working today — have both seen their literary creations head to the stage. The musical “Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play!,” based on Willems’s Elephant & Piggie series, recently finished a run at New York’s New Victory Theater and is setting out on a national tour; “The Way Back Home,” a puppet production based on Jeffers’s book of the same title, will be at the New Victory in March. The two authors talked to Maria Russo, The Times’s children’s books editor, about the thrills and embarrassments of children’s theater and their books’ very different journeys to the stage.

Education Week
February 17, 2017

As a method of organizing efforts to help students who are struggling academically, response to intervention has seen widespread adoption. But as an improved method of identifying students with learning disabilities, RTI shows far less clear benefits, researchers are finding. The RTI instructional model is designed to identify students in need of extra assistance and provide them targeted and research-based lessons, or interventions.

News and Observer (Raleigh, NC)
February 17, 2017

The spotlight focused Thursday in downtown Raleigh on a group of students who don’t normally get to show off their academic competitiveness – visually impaired students. Seventeen students came to the Church of the Good Shepherd to compete in the Eastern North Carolina Regional Braille Challenge. The participants are hoping to score high enough to be among the 50 students nationally who will be invited to California in June to compete in the 2017 National Braille Challenge sponsored by the non-profit Braille Institute.

KQED Mindshift
February 16, 2017

As the national attention to fake news and the debate over what to do about it continue, one place many are looking for solutions is in the classroom. Since a recent Stanford study showed that students at practically all grade levels can’t determine fake news from the real stuff, the push to teach media literacy has gained new momentum. The study showed that while students absorb media constantly, they often lack the critical thinking skills needed to tell fake news from the real stuff. Teachers are taking up the challenge to change that. NPR Ed put out a social media call asking how educators are teaching fake news and media literacy, and we got a lot of responses. Here’s a sampling from around the country.

Education Week
February 16, 2017

Children enrolled for a year in an enhanced Head Start program known as Educare show better results on tests of auditory and expressive language skills, parent-reported problem behaviors, and parent-child interactions compared to children who were not able to enroll in the program, a new study has found. The report, published this month in Child Development, tracked more than 200 children under the age of 19 months. The children were either enrolled in Educare, a national program that blends federal, public, and private dollars to support children from birth to age 5, or in a "business as usual" control group of children who were not able to enroll in Educare. There are 21 Educare programs in 18 cities, serving rural, suburban and urban communities. The model includes embedded professional development for teachers, the use of data to guide decisionmaking, and high-quality teaching practices.

"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." — Lemony Snicket