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Holiday Reads

I’ve been on a blogging break, but not a reading break. While you are heading off for the holidays, I want to tell you about my two favorite books of the year for your consideration for “seasons readings”— Step Out on Nothing by Byron Pitts and Traits of Writing by Ruth Culham. 

Byron Pitts, a 60 Minutes correspondent, tells a moving story about how faith and family helped him overcome numerous obstacles, including illiteracy. He also talks about the “angels”— educators like you— who made such a difference in his life. 

Traits of writing

This is an updated book by my (and may be your) favorite writing guru, Ruth Culham. I believe that her books have made me a better writer and many teachers tell me she made them more effective teachers. This edition of the Traits of Writing series has new scoring guides and lessons all for middle school teachers. Look for her books at the grades you teach.

Happy reading.


Research Alert -- Newseum, Washington DC

The Carnegie Corporation released a comprehensive set of adolescent literacy reports that can be used to help all of us respond more effectively to the reading needs of our students in grades four through high school. I'm glad this report came out early in the school year while, borrowing from the report, there's still Time to Act. http://www.carnegie.org/literacy/tta/

Reports of the Week

Two major literacy reports were released this week.  Interestingly, the areas addressed represent “bookends’ on the education continuum—early literacy and adult literacy.

NelpDeveloping Early Literacy is the report of the National Early Literacy Panel.  I found the findings on instructional practices that give young learners a leg up on early literacy skills of particular interest:

Instructional Practices That Enhance Early Literacy Skills

• Code-focused interventions: Interventions designed to teach children skills related to cracking the alphabetic code.  Most code-focused interventions included PA instruction.

• Shared-reading interventions: Interventions involving reading books to children. These interventions included studies of simple shared reading and those that encouraged various forms of reader-child interactions around the material being read.

• Parent and home programs: Interventions using parents as agents of intervention.  These interventions may have involved teaching parents instructional techniques to use with their children at home to stimulate children’s linguistic or cognitive development.

• Preschool and kindergarten programs: Studies evaluating any aspect of a preschool or kindergarten program.  Ten studies in this category concerned one particular intervention (the Abecedarian Project).  Other studies evaluated effects of educational programs, curricula, or policies, such as extended-year experience, on kindergartners.

• Language-enhancement interventions: Studies examining the effectiveness of an instructional effort aimed at improving young children’s language development.*

It was also very clear that there is a need for more on research on this critical period in literacy development. For the complete report go to http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/NELP/NELP09.html

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Research You Can Use About Civics

Research You Can Use About Civics

The third part of a study on civic literacy was released last month and findings indicate that our students may need to know more in order to participate fully in politics and in their communities. http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/2008/major_findings_finding1.html
Participants, from the study, included high school drop outs, college students and even elected officials. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-11-19-civics_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

Respondents in this survey were stumped by the purpose of the Electoral College, so clearly we all have some work to do.  I recently provided an excellent description of the Electoral College from Real Simple http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple/gallery/0,21863,1854722-3,00.html.  I am so excited about the potential of the recent presidential election to serve as the basis for the ultimate civics lesson and if we take advantage of what is happening by reading up on and discussing current events we will be better informed.

I also just wrote a recent article for The Family Magazine Group on Simple Steps to a Civic-minded Child. http://www.familymagazinegroup.com/online/1108/LA/index.htm#1. Some of these suggestions might work for your young learners today in order to improve civic knowledge tomorrow.

Read up……

If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher

This was a popular bumper sticker several years ago.

In this season of gratitude, I’m so appreciative that no matter what challenges we face we’re part of a profession that is working to ensure that all of our children and young adults develop the literacy expertise necessary to succeed in school and in life.

Thanks to all of you for all that you do for our students.  Do hope you have time to reflect, restore and relax with your family and friends.

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Required Reading about 21st Century Skills

What do today’s kids need to know and be able to do to succeed in school and beyond?


Here are two new must read resources to help answer that question.

Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding by Linda Darling-Hammond, P. David Pearson, Alan H. Schoenfeld, Brigid Barron and Timothy D. Zimmerman focuses on best practices in areas such as project-based learning in the context of language arts, math and science instruction.  This book was pub lished with support from the George Lucas Education Foundation.  http://www.edutopia.org/

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Welcome Back!

Welcome to the 2008-09 school year.  I know the hurricane season has been disruptive and do hope that all students and their teachers and families are now able to focus on learning.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Read Up! Books, Research & Literacy are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.