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.
Note: These links may expire after a week or so. Some websites require you to register first before seeing an article.
16 million children face hunger in the U.S., which can prevent them from performing well in school. In this TED Talk, chef Sam Kass describes a simple solution with a potentially huge impact: free breakfast. Kass is a former White House chef and food policy advisor for the Obama administration. He was also Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign. As one of the First Lady's longest-serving advisors, he helped create the first large-scale vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden. He also helped advise on an initiative that provided free breakfast to all students at low-income schools.
Robin Benway took home the 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature on November 15 for her novel Far From the Tree. Benway’s novel tells the story of teenage Grace, who was adopted at birth, and who begins a search for her birth family when she puts her own daughter up for adoption. Finalists including Rita Williams-Garcia (a three-time finalist), for Clayton Byrd Goes Underground; Ibi Zoboi for American Street; Erika L. Sánchez for I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter; and Elana K. Arnold for What Girls Are Made Of. Zoboi and Sánchez are debut novelists.
Pat Hutchins, who has died aged 75, was an award-winning illustrator and author, best known for her 1968 children’s book Rosie’s Walk. She created more than 40 picture books and short novels, all of which show her storytelling skills, her tremendous sense of humour and her warmth for children. In a recent talk looking back on her career, Pat described how she followed advice from Susan Hirschman, then editor-in-chief of Macmillan children’s books, and turned a long “and in fact very, very boring story” about animals into the simplicity of Rosie’s Walk. She also told stories with strong family themes, such as Titch and its sequels, You’ll Soon Grow into Them, Titch and Titch’s Windy Day, light and touching tales, drawing on her experiences with her sons, Morgan and Sam, of the dynamics of sibling relationships.
More than 300 Arlington Public Schools teachers have been trained to help students with dyslexia by using an approach that combines various senses and teaches sounds before making them into words. The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education’s Orton-Gillingham approach trains teachers to have students learn language by listening, speaking, reading and writing. So, for example, a dyslexic student is taught to see the letter A, say it and write it in the air at the same time. Students are also taught to read and write various sounds in isolation before making them into words, and learn the history of the English language to understand its rules and patterns. An APS spokesman said training is part of a concerted effort for teachers to support dyslexic students and help them get their reading and writing abilities up to a good standard.
High-quality early-childhood programs boost graduation rates, reduce grade retention and cut down on special education placements, according to a new analysis of several other early-education research studies that adds fresh fuel to long-running policy debates about the effectiveness of pre-K. The findings contrast with other research, such as on the federal Head Start program and on Tennessee's preschool program, that have found that the behavioral and academic benefits of those programs fade over time. The Head Start and Tennessee studies, however, examined child outcomes a few years into participants' elementary school years. In contrast, this new analysis took a longer view; many of the studies tracked children into high school and beyond.
You may have heard that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently withdrew 72 special education guidance letters. Some parents are confused and concerned about what this means. We asked Lindsay Jones, chief policy and advocacy officer for NCLD, to answer some common questions parents may have. Read her answers here. One mission of ED is to help schools implement IDEA. (This is our nation’s special education law.) To do that, ED sometimes issues “guidance” to schools about how to apply the law. One example is a letter of guidance it sent to schools in 2015. In it, ED reminded schools that they may use the names of learning issues like dyslexia in IEPs. This guidance has been useful to parents. They’ve been able to bring it to IEP meetings to help them communicate with the school. These letters don’t have the force of law. However, they do give schools important direction. And in practice, schools generally follow what ED says in guidance letters.
Unlike previous federal laws, ESSA’s focus on the whole child, including social-emotional development, opens the door to correcting the well-intentioned, but ill-conceived practices we adopted to meet the proficiency-driven demands of laws such as No Child Left Behind. ESSA creates an opportunity for a strengthening of kindergarten that supports educators in marrying the concepts of academic rigor and developmentally appropriate practice. It presents an opportunity to refocus the interactions between teachers and children to those that are play-based, interdisciplinary, and worthy of doing in the first place. As the real work of implementing ESSA plans begins, let’s leverage the potential found in ESSA to build strong state and district partnerships that not only fuse academic rigor and developmentally appropriate practices, but once and for all lift kindergarten educators into a world that supports learning and makes sense.
About a third of the students with disabilities who enroll in a four-year college or university graduate within eight years. For those who enroll in two-year schools, the outcomes aren’t much better: 41 percent, according to federal data. The dismal outcomes aren’t because students with disabilities can’t handle the coursework. The vast majority of special education students can grasp rigorous academic content. Experts estimate that up to 90 percent should be able to graduate from high school meeting the same standards as general education students, ready to succeed in college and careers. But high schools often neglect to teach these students the soft skills that will help them in higher education — like how to study, manage their time and self-advocate.
R.J. Palacio and our reviewers share their favorite picks for the holidays.As a child, R.J. Palacio loved the fantastical stories of Greek mythology. She remembers trips to the library to check out “D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths” again and again. But when Palacio began writing her own book years later, the subject was no fantasy. It was about a boy born with a condition that caused his face to form differently from those of most children. On the surface, young Auggie Pullman doesn’t resemble Hercules or Odysseus, but the 10-year-old’s experience navigating school outside his home for the first time is no less heroic. The book, “Wonder,” has captivated millions of young readers since it was published in 2012. Palacio spoke to KidsPost about “Wonder” and the movement it has spurred called “Choose Kind.”
Excited preschoolers crowded around men and women old enough to be their grandparents, ready to read. But the people narrating picture books and acting out plotlines with their hands weren’t their relatives. Rather, they were senior citizens at the retirement home and assisted-living facility Legacy Lodge at Jackson Hole. Legacy Lodge partnered with Children’s Learning Center teachers to offer a twice-a-month opportunity for generations to collide and unite over something that makes them both happy: reading. Children’s Learning Center is the area’s largest early education center serving kids ages birth through 5, and it just happens to have a location across the street from Legacy Lodge.
November is National Native American Heritage Month and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. While on this holiday we give thanks for the gifts we have in our lives, it's important to be thankful all year round. Native American teachings dictate the importance of the earth and all of its creatures, something that our lives could not exist without. So this Thanksgiving and for the ongoing future, let's learn from the following children's books about the beauty of life, nature and family.
Responding to the need to look beyond test scores to measure school quality, an increasing number of school districts are striving to incorporate socio-emotional learning measures in their accountability policies. Growth mindset – believing that intelligence and talent can change – is one of these measures. Experimental research has found that developing a growth mindset can improve academic achievement and that schools can affect students’ mindset. However, until now we have not known how mindset varies across and within American schools or whether measures of mindset on a large-scale predict students’ future learning. A new study fills this gap by using data from five school districts in California that measure growth mindset for students in 3rd to 8th grade to assess the extent that students with stronger growth mindset learn more in a given year than those without. It finds that traditionally underserved students – including students in poverty, English learners, Hispanics, and African-American students – are less likely to hold a growth mindset.
Texas's special education enrollment grew by about 14,000 students in the 2016-17 school year, the same year the Houston Chronicle published an investigation on the state's policy of scrutinizing districts whose special education enrollment went over 8.5 percent. The state's special education enrollment is now around 477,000 students, or 8.9 percent of the state's public school students, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday. At the time the Chronicle published its investigation in 2016, the state had the lowest percentage of students in special education of all 50 states—exactly 8.5 percent, when the nationwide average was around 13 percent.
With all the technology available for children, we don’t want to forget reading aloud. In a report by Richard Anderson, Elfrieda Hiebert, Judith Scott and Ian Wilkinson, they wrote, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” In addition to offering the broadened perspective and purpose that literature brings, reading aloud provides four additional advantages: stronger motivation, greater vocabulary, more exposure to concepts about language and print, and increased attention span.
Children’s books are more than just entertainment. They reflect how a society sees its young and itself. By shaping the attitudes and aspirations of children, they help shape the world those children will grow up to inherit. Barbara Cooney went on to have a long and celebrated career in American picture books. She illustrated or wrote some 100, including modern classics such as Miss Rumphius and Ox-Cart Man (which garnered her another Caldecott Medal, in 1980). Her books are still beloved, nearly two decades after her death, by readers who admire their visual charm and rich historical storytelling. But Cooney’s greatest gifts, manifest in her work from the start, are more profound. Her singular vision of young Americans and her unique ideas about how to write for them make her books more relevant to Americans today—and perhaps more necessary—than ever before.
Having more girl classmates may help boys and girls alike boost their reading skills, according to a new study in the Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement. Using data from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, a benchmarking test of 15-year-olds in 33 countries, the researchers looked at how school resources and social characteristics affected boys' and girls' reading performance. In each school, the researchers analyzed the concentration of poverty, the percentage of teachers with a college degree, and the proportion of girls to boys.On average across countries, students had higher reading scores in low-poverty schools and schools where a majority of teachers had a college degree. But researchers also found girls scored nearly 30 points higher than boys on a 600-point scale, and all students scored better when girls made up at least 60 percent of students in the school:
Since the beginning of “once upon a time,” adults have spent so many hours analyzing and worrying over fairy tales, it’s a wonder most aren’t worn down to a few frazzled golden threads. But before we can get to the meaning of a fairy tale, it must delight us, or scare us, or perhaps both. Two books for young readers — Emily Jenkins’s “Brave Red, Smart Frog,” illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason, and “Snow & Rose,” by Emily Winfield Martin — reimagine Brothers Grimm fairy tales, treating delight, with a few grisly bits folded in, as its own reward. The deeper meanings of these stories do emerge, but the pleasure they give is paramount.
When Oliver Jeffers and his wife brought home their newborn son from hospital, they paused at the door to their apartment in Brooklyn, New York. The three of them stood on the threshold of family life. It was Jeffers who broke the silence. “Here we are,” he said. “It’s sort of a Northern Irish thing to say when you arrive somewhere or there’s a group of people and a moment’s silence,” he says now. Nearly two years later, the words would become the title of his new book. Here We Are is unlike any of Jeffers’s previous books (16 as an internationally bestselling writer and illustrator, more as illustrator alone). “Well, hello. Welcome to this planet. We call it Earth,” begins Here We Are. (Jeffers’s words about people coming in all varieties are also included, almost verbatim.) Jeffers has long been interested in space, as a glance at the skyscapes in The Way Back Home suggests, and the book takes a telescopic view of the human lifeform, from the opening image of a father holding a baby (“I suppose it’s me,” he says. “I just thought: ‘Oh – dad figure!’”) to a wide-angle map of the solar system.
Exactly 30 years after then-Secretary of Education William J. Bennett labeled Chicago Public Schools the worst in the nation, new research shows that Windy City schools now lead the country in academic growth. A new study by Stanford University researchers Sean Reardon and Rebecca Hinze-Pifer tracked reading and math test score growth among public school students from 2009 to 2014. Across racial groups, the researchers found that Chicago students learned significantly faster from grades 3 to 8 than did students in nearly all other U.S. districts—gaining about six years' worth of learning in five years. Moreover, there was evidence that incoming student cohorts were improving rapidly. At each of grades 3 through 8, Chicago students' test scores rose two-thirds of a grade level from 2009 to 2014, compared to the average national improvement of one-sixth of a grade level in those grades during that time. Black, Hispanic, and white students all showed that improvement.
The overall decline in student writing ability cannot be attributed to one cause. Recent studies have shown that many teachers are ill-prepared to teach writing when they enter the classroom. Others are great at teaching it but lack time to give their overflowing classes the meaningful feedback so critical to improving writing. Technology continues to impact our patterns of communication as well, in some cases eroding forms necessary to academic discourse and replacing it with emojis and text-speak. While all of those elements play a role in determining student writing quality, instructional approaches and amount of time devoted to in-class writing are likely the easiest to change.