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Cultivating a love for learning that will last a lifetime: Home

For teachers and parents to help cultivate curious minds for a lifetime love of learning

Birth to Pre-K

The Garden of Learning by: Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill

How to cultivate a love for reading in children

In Elizabeth Kirkand's writings she describes the cultivation of love for learning as a garden to tend early on in the life of a child so that they can continue it's cultivation for the rest of their lives. In her writings she begins by describing the preparation of the "soil" by reading (to yourself) early, and often, have books around the house. Elizabeth suggests that a child born into a house where books are both used and cherished is a child who will mature in a fertile environment for producing readers.

Next Elizabeth suggests "planting the seeds" by stocking a baby's starter library with board books, bath books, books that can be gnawed on, drooled over, hurled to the floor, squeezed and loved. She describes how reading for infants is a fully sensory activity: that they taste and see, they touch and they hear. Babies respond to books with human faces and vivid pictures, and they love movement, rhyme and music (there is a reason that nursery rhymes have staying power). Planting your baby in your lap, because loving and learning are profoundly linked. Whether a toddler perched on a father's lap or a first-grader leaning on a mother's shoulder, a child who is read to by people he or she loves in a cozy and intimate reading environment will associate reading with close relationships.

Next is "feeding the young plants". From an early age, children absorb the ethos of the books they encounter. Elizabeth suggests that we nourish our growing reader with the bright cheery colors of a Lucy Cousins picture book about birds, continue with the lift-the-flap Where's Spot? series and Rosemary Wells's redoubtable Max and Ruby stories, and move on to the witty rhymes and sympathetic characters of Bill Peet or the dynamic duo of Henry and his big dog, Mudge. As they pore over the pictures and match them to the words we are reading aloud, our children will not only be acquiring language, they will also unconsciously be learning lessons of empathy, kindness, resilience and love for the natural world.

Then you must "strengthen the plants as they grow": As your reader deepens his or her roots, develops a strong core and begins to blossom, nourish this growth with more sophisticated language, complex narratives and challenging plots. Elizabeth suggests; The Little House on the Prairie books, Rick Riordan's Lightning Thief series that draws on Greek mythology, Anthony Horowitz's thrillers—these are among the many books you can suggest for your increasingly independent reader. Try to find books marked by writing that is beautiful and strong, with wide-ranging vocabulary and syntax that has some integrity.

Next is to "kill the weeds". Elizabeth describes that in 21st-century gardens, the riffraff that is most likely to threaten the developing reader is of an electronic nature. Too much attachment to screens—smartphones, tablets or televisions—can choke a child's enthusiasm for books. she suggests setting firm limits to prevent electronic overgrowth. In her own home, depending on the stage of life and the particular child, she had a screen-time to book-time policy of 1:1 or 1:2.

And finally "enjoying the fruits". With proper soil preparation, planting techniques, cultivation and weeding, your garden will produce children who are animated, curious and engaged readers and lovers of literature.


Cahill, E. K. (2017). The garden of learning: how to cultivate a love for reading in children. America, (9), 62. Retrieved from

Cultivating Human Abilities: Engaging Young Children though Mindful Literacy Practices By Mary Lou Harris-Manske and Leslie McClain

Harris-Manske and McClain offer the notion that as teachers they must reflect on what they are doing and realize what important, stepping back is in order to move forward. They urge us to teach in ways that strengthen student-centered, deeply interactive approaches to literacy, approaches that invite students to live richly literate lives, using reading and writing to pursue goals of personal and social significance. They ask how we can cultivate children’s emerging abilities through literacy,how can we create the space and make time for mediated and responsive literacy practices and how do we mindfully use language, inviting children to take risks, deepen, and expand their thinking in the classroom? In this article they explore these questions and consider factors for engaging mindful literacy practices and inspiring the reciprocity of thoughtful, intentional, dynamic learning in order to cultivate ever-emerging abilities in young children.

Harris-Manske and McClain begin with creating the space. Building relationships and establishing trust are essential to creating a space for young children’s literacy practice and discovery. Creating the community and climate for thinking, exploration and discovery it certainly not an easy matter; it starts with changing the culture of the school. By culture, they mean determining what kind of change is worthwhile and what mindsets, structures, systems, resources and practices we need to replace in the classroom. For example using the open mind framework, which draws upon a lens of learning as dynamic rather than fixed. The dynamic mindset learners show confidence in solving problems and are realistic about their successes. They do not blame their ‘intellect’ or anyone else for lack of success, or even think of themselves as failing. Instead, when encountering a trouble spot, dynamic learners respond strategically. Although, fixed mindset learners tend to become helpless when encountering trouble spots, adopting an ‘I’m not very smart’ or ‘I can’t do it’ attitude. Learners who have a well-developed sense of agency, a dynamic approach to learning, and perseverance show vitality and steady growth in their understandings. Such a way of being can be nurtured within our classroom spaces for young children.

Next Harris-Manske and McClain offer attending to language. They suggest that when we become mindful of the language we are using in the classroom to engage learning, we become ever aware of the dynamic reciprocity between student and teacher. They propose that children seldom misquote you; that children usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said. Therefore further supporting the fact that language matters. We are shaped by the language we use about ourselves, and by the language used by others about us. The language we use has the power to build up or tear down. Harris-Manske and McClain advise that language shapes the identity of our students and depending on the words chosen can stop learning in its tracks or move learning forward and allow it to become self-generating.

After that Harris-Manske and McClain put forward deepening understandings. In their article they state that in the dialogic classroom, students recall their readings better, understand them in greater depth, and respond more fully to aesthetic elements of literature. Also the dialogic classroom may reduce achievement differences across race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. They question how to go about honoring and engaging a dialogic classroom. Then offer that firstly, we must be mindful about wait time. Regularly practicing the pause of silence and reflection with students supports the spaciousness of wait time. In dialogic classrooms we notice students being invited to say what they think, with everyone’s voice being an asset to the community and every response being taken seriously through care-full listening. As well as working with an understanding of “together, we” requires listening practice. Are we listening just waiting for our turn to give a reply? Or are we listening deeply to know more clearly and understand? Deep listening nourishes both the listener and the speaker. Hearing all the voices, that is, ensuring that all learners feel safe and valued enough to share their thinking, needs to be one of our main goals for all learners, educators and students alike.

And finally Harris-Manske and McClain suggest expanding understandings. That, children with limited social imaginations may develop negative bias in their understandings of the world around them and have difficulty generating productive solutions to social problems, showing less self-regulation and often making impulsive decisions. Social imagination invites learners into seeing, caring and experiencing our interconnectedness. In working with mindful literacy practices for deepening dialogue and comprehension, social imagination engages learners specifically in explorations of compassion and empathy. They propose that empathy is much more than the ability to feel and understand, it supports social development and allows us to see the other side of the argument, comfort someone in distress that empathy builds self-awareness and allows us to work together. Social imagination invites the learner to walk in another’s shoes, therefore beginning the study of cause and effect, and ultimately of kindness in action. Learners begin to expand their lens in discovering perspectives and gradually realize that others routinely have different perspectives, physical, emotional, motivational and cultural. From this expansion, learners become more developed socially, morally, and intellectually.

Reference: Harris-Manske, M. L., & McClain, L. (2015). Cultivating Human Abilities: Engaging Young Children though Mindful Literacy Practices. Review of Human Factor Studies21(1), 43–57. Retrieved from

What’s Blooming in Books By Melisa Ezarik

K-12 book buying choices plant the seed of reading, but how schools cultivate the joys of learning through books makes all the difference

Raising readers. It's a job in which parents, schools, publishers and libraries play a role. From buying decisions to incorporating books into learning, every step is considered carefully. Here's the latest word on the world of books: 

CONSUMERS AND SCHOOLS ARE SPENDING MORE! Total U.S. book sales increased by 3.4 percent to $25.3 billion between 1999 and 2000, with juvenile hardcover books up 13.2 percent and juvenile paperbacks up 16.4 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers. Leading this increase, as expected, was a bespectacled lad from London. More than 2.5 times the number of Harry Potter books were sold in 2000 than 1999, according to the latest BookTrends. Textbook sales are up as well--13.3 percent for the year, according to AAP figures. Market Data Retrieval's latest statistics show that public schools spent 6 percent more on instructional materials in 1998-1999 than in the previous school year, for a total of $8.5 billion (this figure includes books, supplies and educational media).

TECHNOLOGY WILL PLAY A BIGGER PART IN THE FUTURE OF BOOKS. A 2000 report by Forrester Research predicts that custom-printed books, textbooks and e-books will reach $7.8 billion in revenues within the next five years. Digital textbooks are expected to net $3.2 billion in 2005 and account for one-quarter of the textbook sales market.

ACCESS TO BOOKS IN LIBRARIES HAS DECLINED. School libraries have weakened during the past decade, according to the International Reading Association. There are fewer books per child and the condition of the books and library staffing are lacking. Donna Ogle, president of IRA, attributes this to the push toward technology. Schools end up spending more on technology and less on books.

CONTINUOUS EXPOSURE AND ACCESS TO GOOD BOOKS ARE THE FOCUS OF MANY LITERACY EFFORTS TODAY. Public libraries work "to cultivate readers as early as possible through preschool and literacy appreciation programs," says Judith K. Meyers, director of Wilmington Public Library in Ohio. In addition, public librarians try to ensure that collections relate to popular curriculum subjects. Providing children and families free access to new books is the goal of Reading Is Fundamental Program Development Coordinator Sara Horwitz notes that all age groups (infant to teen) appear to lean toward fiction and award-winning titles (such as Caldecott and Newberry honorees). Popular topics include multiculturalism and diversity, and books connected to a television show, movie or video game.

READING GOALS CAN FOSTER A BOOK BUZZ AMONG STUDENTS.Teachers should have guidelines, set by administrators and librarians, about how often students should visit the library, suggests Meyers, this year's chair of the American Association of School Librarians' Distinguished School Administrator Award. To get the students excited about reading, "one principal bet his school that they wouldn't read a certain number of books," Meyers says. "If he lost he had to sit on top of the school all day--and he did."

READING IS NO LONGER JUST A SILENT ACTIVITY. Illinois-based North Central Regional Educational Laboratory identifies a "new definition of reading" today, where there is interaction among the reader, the text and the context. Teachers are reading aloud and promoting independent reading in classrooms.Combining textbook learning with resource materials to create integrative curriculum units is common, says Ogle. No longer are all teachers sticking to a single textbook. Bob Resnick, founder of Education Market Research, notes that "educators are still very dependent on their print materials." EMR surveys indicate that about 80 percent of teachers still use a core textbook for each major subject area.A challenge for publishers, says Ogle, is the need to connect books with curriculum standards. With stricter standards more common today, some schools find that no textbook seems "complete." In one Virginia school, teachers ended up writing an appropriate social studies textbook themselves.

Reference: EZARIK, M. (2001). What’s Blooming in Books. Curriculum Administrator, (6). Retrieved from

Getting Kids Hooked on Reading-Early! By Donald F. Demoulin


Personalizing Material to Enhance Focus

Two and a half years of research has provided valuable Donald insight on the natural associations of personalization and rhyme for children to enjoy reading and to focus more on content. Results of these studies support the premise that the use of personalization and rhyming techniques can increase focus time on reading content.

Donald states that for the past 30 years, educators have realized the value of personalization to produce significant improvement in reading--children need to become actively engaged in the story line that reinforces correct reading skills. As children become actively engaged in the story line, they display a heightened interest and an increased desire to improve their literacy skills. When a story reflects things that are familiar in a child's personal life, it is more interesting and meaningful. Stories that are meaningful enhance a child's motivation to read. For reading instruction in the early grades (preschool, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd) the use of personalization can be quite successful in maximizing a student's interest.

A story that uses personalization heightens a child's curiosity as s/he identifies with the story line and with the characters, interest when content can be associated with real-life situations, motivation to read stories with which they can identify and interest when a story reflects things that are familiar in a child's personal life.

Rhyming to Enhance Curiosity

It has long been known that young children have been intrigued by rhyme. Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss books, to name a few, have been part of our early childhood learning for many years--and are still popular. Why? The rhyming patterns and meter increases focus time on content by capturing a young child's attention. In many learning situations, the use of rhyme is favored because the rhyming patterns make recall easier. Donald proposes that the use of rhyme is important because children are intrigued by sentence tempo and flow of words that children become actively involved with rhyming patterns, rhyming helps children identify word families; and that children love rhyming designs because the sounds are appealing to the ear.

Combining Personalization and Rhyming

Donald’s research in combining personalization and rhyme has provided encouraging results in enhancing a child's motivation to learn and in increasing a child's focus time on content areas covered in class. Theresults offer teachers and parents an additional tool that can provide surprising improvement in the learning-to-read process. His ongoing research since 1999 has been conducted on a learning process that utilizes the uniqueness of personalization and the fascination of rhyme to enhance a child's motivation to read. The result is a program called A Book About ME. This personalized program strategically arranges words, content, and meanings into rhyming groups of different units utilizing Dolch Sight Words that are associated with elementary school children ages 4-7. With the inclusion of a Curriculum Planner, corresponding wall chart, and Parent/Guardian Handbook of Helpful Flints, this supplemental program can be easily integrated into existing curriculum and/or used at home to provide an excellent avenue to improve focus time. His ongoing findings suggest that A Book About ME, when implemented in conjunction with the Curriculum Planner, can be an effective supplemental teaching tool and guide in the classroom. Findings also identified a 27 percent mean gain in recognition and pronunciation of Dolch sight words. This significant gain was attributed to the continual repetition of reading practices, word usage, word identification, word association, and word recognition during the seven weeks. As a result, the program can expand a child's word base while maximizing the potential to increase reading comprehension.

Helping Children (and Schools)

Donald shows us that the TeleCom Pioneers, the largest industry-related volunteer organization in North America, is initiating a long-term project to provide this personalized program, A Book About ME, to children ages 4-7 across North America. Pioneers are providing this program at no cost to schools through their fund-raising efforts and through establishing partnerships with business and organizations throughout the country. Schools, PTA's and other organizations can be engaged in purchasing this book through active partnerships with the Pioneers.

Reference: DeMoulin, D. F. (2003). Getting kids hooked on reading--early!(use of personalization and rhyme increases motivation to read)(TeleCom Pioneers provides personalized reading program to North America schools). Education, (4), 663. Retrieved from

Pre-K Music and the Emergent Reader: Promoting Literacy in a Music-Enhanced Environment By Donna Gwyn Wiggins

In her article she proposes that emergent literacy may be nurtured in an early childhood environment that integrates literacy experiences with meaningful music activities in which young children develop skills necessary for success in both areas simultaneously. Early childhood educators can develop the knowledge and skills needed to bring music into the classroom as an engaging and stimulating element of literacy education. Based upon these thoughts of specialists in the fields of music and literacy, the integration of music into literacy learning settings may aid in language development while promoting musical development at the same time. Researchers have long suggested a connection between music and language development. Wiggins states that it was not until the 1970s that a strong argument was made regarding the nonmusical effects of music in the regular classroom. Wiggins revisited the discussion of connections specifically between music and language reading readiness. She stated that developing auditory discrimination was critical to children’s reading skills both in music and regular classrooms. A key to successful language reading is the development of attentive listening. This listening skill is strengthened through the varied listening experiences afforded children in the music classroom.

Wiggins credits music instruction as benefiting children’s oral communication and development of sight vocabulary through immersion into a song-rich environment. Wiggins investigated the relationship between musical awareness and reading skills with 18 infant children ranging from 4 years 9 months to 5 years 4 months. Researchers were interested in validating the assumption that a relationship exists between an awareness of musical sound changes and phonemic awareness. Subjects completed a simple reading test assessing concepts about print, word matching, letter sounding, and word reading. In addition, an assessment of phonic reading and musical ability were administered. All tests were administered across five sessions. The results show that the children who scored high on the phonic awareness measure also scored high on the reading tests. In addition, this same group of children performed well on the pitch discrimination assessment. The investigators suggest a longitudinal study be conducted to study the relationship of pitch discrimination and other aspects of musical ability to reading progress. Wiggins has projected that mastery of the music standards by four-year olds is built upon the assumption that developmentally appropriate activities have been provided at ages 2 and 3. That singing activities supports expressive singing, provides opportunity for the teacher to monitor growth in pitch and rhythmic accuracy, and gives each child an opportunity to play a variety of instruments. She suggests that the teacher can influence understanding of steady beat, for example, by encouraging children to play their instrument to the steady beat when their animal name is sung.

Wiggins explained that several activities identified as necessary to literacy development during the preschool years are musical experiences and reading aloud to children. The combining of these two experiences into a strategy for development of preschool literacy reflects a belief that varied strategies are necessary in order to address the diversity of today’s classroom and to stimulate and maintain high interest in reading. Strongly recommended are experiences that develop phonemic awareness through participation in singing, fingerplays, games, poems, and stories rich in phonemic patterns such as rhyme and alliteration. Combining the use of Big Books and music-integrated literacy experiences is thus the type of strategy that enhances children’s exposure to concepts about print. While the use of songs aids in the development of phonemic awareness, it also affords children who are learning English as a second language an opportunity to sing songs in their primary language and in English.

Reference: Wiggins, D. (2007). Pre-K Music and the Emergent Reader: Promoting Literacy in a Music-Enhanced Environment. Early Childhood Education Journal35(1), 55–64.

Pre-K Partnership How One Library and One Public School Increased Parent Engagement By Kristen Rocha Aldrich

In her article Kristen says that Pre-K seems to be the new kindergarten. That parents and caregivers are faced with increasing pressure to ensure their children are school ready. Every parent and caregiver possesses school readiness skills; however, a little extra support and guidance can go a long way in a child’s literacy development. Pre-K is a great place for children to build and learn new literacy and social emotional skills. Teachers are there to help the families begin navigating the school system and to give their children the building blocks to become successful lifelong learners. However, this process begins long before a child enters school. Often, the first time children and families are exposed to these skills is at their local library, either through activities geared towards families or through partnerships with pre-K and daycare classrooms. Libraries are uniquely positioned as a community anchor and already have the trust of families. Librarians and library staff build lasting connections with each patron who walks in the door. Often, librarians watch children grow from infants at baby storytime into high school students using the library’s resources to write research papers. They know the child’s interests—they probably even helped the child discover some interests—as well as the family’s larger concerns. This familiarity grows out of the type of trust and support a school cannot regularly give to every student and family. It is the foundation of the type of relationship our libraries are founded on. It was in the summer of 2015 that Kristen began looking for a way to reach parents through family literacy workshops.

While the content shared at each of the workshops was not groundbreaking, the two most frequent comments we received were that parents and caregivers were thrilled to hear that the simple things they already do, like talking to their child on the subway, are actually helping their child learn and grow, that their parenting skills were validated. And they also felt empowered to know they don’t have to be an education expert to give their child the tools needed for success. Kristen said that it is amazing to watch a room full of parents and caregivers first recite the words of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and then sing it to demonstrate how singing helps their child develop phonological awareness. And activity that is so simple, yet incredibly effective.

NYPL’s Morrisania branch took the pre-K workshop content on the road to local homeless shelters. Many other branches host “after-hours” family literacy workshops, and offer dinner and childcare for the families attending the workshop—one librarian will offer a storytime to the children, while the other delivers the workshop to the parents and caregivers. At the end, the parents and caregivers and children come back together to practice literacy-building activities. No matter how Family Literacy Workshops are hosted, these four core components make them successful:

Outreach, outreach, outreach. Even if you do not host your workshop with a pre-K classroom, school outreach is always a great way to advertise your programming and build relationships with the teachers.

Food. If there is food, people will come.

 Childcare. Providing childcare means that parents and caregivers do not have to find a babysitter to attend a library workshop.

Adaptability. You need to know what your community and pre-K teachers need, not just what you are interested in providing them.

Kristen has said that it may take time to find the right fit for your community, but it is worth it. No matter the content covered in the workshop, the community you are helping create for the families and schools is invaluable, whether it’s for two families or fifty families. The library acts as a home-school-community connector and is an unwavering center of support for all families.

Reference: ROCHA ALDRICH, K. (2017). Pre-K Partnership: How One Library and One Public School Increased Parent Engagement. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children15(2), 21–23. Retrieved from

Kindergarden to 6th Grade

Impact of a play‐based curriculum in the first two years of primary school: literacy and numeracy outcomes over seven years By Carol McGuinness, Liz Sproule, Chris Bojke, Karen Trew and Glenda Walsh

In 2000–2002 an innovative early years curriculum, the Enriched Curriculum (EC), was introduced into 120 volunteer schools across Northern Ireland, replacing a traditional curriculum similar to others across the UK at that time. It was intended by the designers to be developmentally appropriate and play‐based with the primary goal of preventing the experience of persistent early failure in children. The EC was not intended to be a literacy and numeracy intervention, yet it did considerably alter teaching in these domains, particularly the age at which formal reading and mathematics instruction began.

The nature of the Enriched Curriculum (EC)

The general expectation by those who designed the new curriculum was that the EC would have positive effects, not only on the immediate learning experiences of the children in the first years of primary school, but also in creating positive learning foundations to sustain the children's progress in school over the longer term.

The curriculum was conceived broadly as more play‐based, more developmentally sensitive and more informal than the pre‐existing curriculum. Using structured classroom observation, the research team had confirmed that the pre‐existing curriculum had indeed fit the more traditional formal style involving frequent worksheets and a prevalence of teacher‐led and didactic activities, therefore setting up an appropriate control group. In the same study, (McGuinness et al.) confirmed that EC classrooms had a better balance between play and other activities and between teacher‐led and child‐led activity. Therefore, play, activity‐based learning and short, story‐based sessions rather than desk‐work preponderated, in order to stimulate children's curiosity, creativity, social development and engagement with learning. There was a short task‐time each day with more focused learning intentions. The EC also stressed outdoor play and activities to promote physical development, highlighting to teachers the order of development of motor skills and the value of physical activity for health.

Although not primarily a literacy and numeracy intervention, the EC had an immediate impact on teaching in these areas that effected the child's second and third years (McGuinness et al.) Essentially it altered the age at which formal reading and mathematics instruction began. In Year 1, the focus was on emergent literacy activities such as phonological awareness, activities to promote general listening and concentration skills, oral sequencing of events and oral comprehension of stories. The use of formal reading schemes was postponed. Instead, children were immersed in a literacy‐rich environment and took books home as part of the shared reading program in which parents were encouraged to participate. Whenever children had achieved certain milestones, such as the ability to recognize several letters and a few common words, they were ready to move on to guided reading, where teachers worked with small groups of children at a similar stage of development. During guided reading, the letter‐sound correspondences were addressed in a more structured way, and other strategies for decoding words were taught. However, the systematic phonics that has become such a significant feature of the early years literacy strategy in England was not a feature of the EC at the beginning (in subsequent years, it became more prominent).

Reference: McGuinness, C., Sproule, L., Bojke, C., Trew, K., & Walsh, G. (2014). Impact of a play-based curriculum in the first two years of primary school: literacy and numeracy outcomes over seven years. British Educational Research Journal40(5), 772–795.

Studies Support Benefits of Educational TV for Reading By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo 

Evidence backs up what many parents have believed

Even the harshest critics of the role that television plays in children's lives would have a hard time arguing that Elmo and Big Bird are bad for youngsters. From the earliest days of "Sesame Street" nearly four decades ago, educational television has earned high praise and millions of fans for entertaining and educating young children. Now, a new generation of programs, and a rigorous research effort to test its impact, is adding to the "Sesame Street" legacy and working to clarify for parents the potential benefits of television viewing, particularly for literacy development.

While learning experts surely agree that too much television and inappropriate content can have detrimental effects on children, the right kinds of programs can set them on the path toward reading. "I'm a big supporter of media technology and I do agree that kids spend far too much time with television and other media," said Milton Chen, who in the mid-1990s helped launch the Ready to Learn Service, a partnership between the Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, and the U.S. Department of Education to create educational programming, Milton came out on the side that suggested that specific television programs and experiences can very much support literacy.Well-designed programs can teach distinct skills such as letter and sound recognition, as well as cultivate a love of reading, said Mr. Chen, the director of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in San Rafael, Calif. As the director of research earlier in his career for the Children's Television Workshop, which has since been renamed Sesame Workshop, Mr. Chen helped to design and test some of the lessons embedded in programs like "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company."

Gains in Understanding

Literacy has been a dominant theme of public-television programs since the first episodes of "Sesame Street" pioneered the genre in November 1969. Many parents since then have observed firsthand the effectiveness of those lessons, such as one on "Sesame Street" that featured Y as the letter of the day and was accompanied by Grammy winner Norah Jones singing her song, "Don't Know Why." Or when Synonym Sam, the girl genius character on "Between the Lions," demonstrated the meaning of sets of words like "walk," "strut," and "stride." There is now growing empirical evidence that such carefully crafted segments deliver an academic punch. A federally financed study released last month, for example, found that "WordWorld," a program funded under the Ready to Learn initiative, helps preschool children learn oral vocabulary and featured words. "Between the Lions," hosted by a puppet family of lions who live in the New York City Library, has been studied even more' extensively.

Studies on the 10-year-old program have linked it to significant gains in students' understanding of how letters combine to make words, as well as of the purpose of the printed word. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recognized that some television programming has benefits. But the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based organization urges parents to avoid television viewing altogether for children under age 2, a prime audience for many programs, because it may be detrimental to their brain development.

The best programs, she said, create content that reflects research on how children learn and test it out on children prior to putting it on television. While public television tends to dominate the educational market, she said that the cable stations Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel have also found success in promoting children's learning on shows such as "Blues Clues" and "Little Einsteins." "When they do these things and kids understand them and like them, the shows are really successful," Ms. Linebarger said, adding that the commercial success can often underwrite the costly development process.

'Literacy 360 Approach'

Even as children become more accustomed to different kinds of media, from computer games to interactive Web sites, children's television has held a large and steady audience, experts say. The newer programs, and even those now heading into middle age, are adapting their approach to engage the digital generation. Most of the shows have accompanying Web sites that provide video clips, activities, and related lessons and games."Television, particularly for preschoolers and the early grades, is still king," said Michael H. Levine, the executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, which promotes research and best practices about digital learning for young children. "But now everything needs to be developed for a range of different platforms."The Sesame Street site, for example, provides podcasts with vocabulary lessons and information related to a selected word, such as "dog." A video clip is offered as well, with former "Late Night" talk-show host Conan O'Brien explaining interesting facts about dogs.

"They are taking a literacy 360 approach and surrounding kids with learning opportunities," Ms. Linebarger said.Those resources help to broaden the impact of the programs and provide learning opportunities beyond the television hour, she added.With a range of activities, and even some aligned assessment tools, parents and caregivers can use educational programming more formally to teach children, experts say. A summer camp was launched last year in association with the "Super Why!" program on PBS and will be offered around the country this year.

PBS is reaching out to parents and caregivers through social networking tools, such as Twitter, to provide reminders and daily strategies for nurturing language development and background knowledge, precursors to reading. Public-television officials are also devising initiatives to train early childhood professionals to use educational television and other digital media to promote learning goals.

Detrimental Effects?

Parents and caregivers, however, need to be aware of the darker side of television, some experts say, particularly in light of data suggesting that children's daily media exposure can exceed the amount of time they spend in school."It would seem that viewing of age-appropriate educational programming in the preschool years is positively associated with reading," Marie Evans Schmidt, a research associate at the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital in Boston, wrote in an e-mail. "But there may be some detrimental effects of TV viewing in general (total hours viewed) for slightly older children who are learning to read.The thought is that watching TV may displace reading practice, which of course affects whether and how soon children become fluent readers."That's why television focused on learning is a valuable asset worthy of public support, said Susan T. Zellman, the vice president for education and children's content at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the nonprofit organization established by Congress that underwrites public television and radio services."These characters are engaging, and the kids are drawn into [lessons] by the characters and the stories, so you motivate them to learn," she said. "Educational television is so powerful and the research is so compelling."

Reference: Manzo, K. K. (2009). Studies Support Benefits of Educational TV for Reading. Education Week28(23), 10. Retrieved from

Effects of a Critical Thinking Skills Program on the Learning Motivation of Primary School Students  By Weiping Hu, Xiaojuan Jia, Jonathan A. Plucker, and Xinxin Shan

Learning motivation has a significant effect on student learning, which is a key determinant of academic performance and creativity. It is increasingly popular and important to cultivate learning motivation in schools. To consider this trend, a long-term intervention program named “Learn to Think” (LTT) was designed not only to improve students’ thinking ability but also to improve their learning motivation. The present study explored the effects of the LTT curriculum on primary school students’ learning motivation. The sample consisted of 158 Chinese primary school students, who were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups. Experimental students participated in the LTT curriculum for 4 years, with data collected via pretests, annual end-of-year assessments, and a delayed posttest administration 1 year after terminating the training. The results suggest that LTT had long-term transfer effects on the development of primary school students’ learning motivation, especially on deep motivation.

Many psychologists and other scholars put forward different perspectives on the composition and classification of learning motivation. In this study, learning motivation is divided into three categories: surface motivation (SM), deep motivation (DM), and achieving motivation (AM).

SM is to meet requirements minimally, a balancing act between failing and working more than is minimally necessary, and it is maladaptive.

DM is intrinsic interest in what is being learned, to develop competence in particular academic subjects.

AM enhances ego and self-esteem through competition, to obtain the highest grades, whether or not the material is interesting.

 Both deep and achieving motivations are considered to be adaptive. Research has shown that both internal and external factors impact students’ motivation. For example, internal factors include gender, age, personality characteristics, thinking and learning styles, learning attribution, and self-efficacy, among others. External factors include characteristics of the school and classroom, ability grouping and students’ perceptions of their learning, classroom climate, social relationships with teachers and peers, parents’ attitudes toward and expectations for their children, and culture.

Hu et al. states in their conclusion that “By focusing on the general teaching of thinking skills, with application to a range of curricular topics and settings, an intervention grounded in psychological theory and represented by a multifaceted theoretical model can have a consistent, long-term, and growing effect on primary students’ deep motivation.”

Reference: Hu, W., Jia, X., Plucker, J. A., & Shan, X. (2016). Effects of a Critical Thinking Skills Program on the Learning Motivation of Primary School Students. Roeper Review38(2), 70. Retrieved from

Interactive Read Alouds: Teachers and Students Constructing Knowledge and Literacy Together By Angela Wiseman

Angela states that interactive read alouds are important learning opportunities for emergent readers because teachers and peers can actively model and scaffold comprehension strategies, engage readers, and cultivate a community of learners. Angela used data from a 9 month ethnographic study in an urban kindergarten classroom in this article to describe how a teacher’s approach facilitated rich interaction in the classroom as students read and made sense of stories together. Findings of this study demonstrate how interactive read alouds were important learning opportunities for emergent readers because they provided opportunities for open-ended responses combined with specific reading instruction. The interactive read alouds created a space where meaning was constructed through dialogue and classroom interaction, providing an opportunity for children to respond to literature in a way that builds on their strengths and extends their knowledge.

Angela proposes that the read aloud goes beyond skills and literacy development in a classroom; it is an opportunity for teachers and students to develop, design, and acknowledge certain forms of knowledge within a classroom setting. Read alouds are important learning opportunities for students as teachers and peers can model and scaffold comprehension strategies and textual features in an active process. As children respond to texts, they are informed by their own lives and experiences, drawing from their own ideas to build and create knowledge within the classroom. Angela found that in many classrooms, the conversation surrounding text is far from transactional; research has shown that many teachers follow the IRE pattern of ‘‘initiate, respond, evaluate’’ rather than approaching discussion as an opportunity to co-construct ideas and perspectives with students.

 Furthermore, even when read alouds are interactive, they often focus on how to build skills such as comprehension, fluency, or vocabulary rather than considering how conversations around a text can build community and engage in topics in critical and significant ways through classroom participation. The read aloud can contribute to complex thinking and learning when students are also responsible for meaning-making and able to contribute to the literacy knowledge of the classroom. The purpose of Angela’s article was to explore how a teacher can support students’ learning by implementing interactive read alouds as a component of the kindergarten literacy curriculum. The interactive read aloud can provide opportunities for open-ended responses combined with specific reading instruction as students focus on topics such as text structure, reading comprehension, and literary understanding, thus encouraging young children to develop their knowledge of reading.

 In her article, she begin with a description of the classroom and research methods and then provide a description of the interactive read aloud in this kindergarten classroom. In the second part of the article, she spoke about four important aspects of the teacher’s discourse that resulted in rich interactions where the kindergartners, along with their teacher, read and made sense of the text together: confirming, modeling, extending and building.

For the teachers confirming contributions of the students not only promoted a positive classroom atmosphere that encouraged children to discuss their ideas about the book, it also supported certain topics of conversation that led to important interpretations about literature. The teacher can make certain ways of thinking and comprehending explicit by modeling how to read, understand, and analyze a story, much like a think aloud. Extending is where the teacher takes what the students know and guides them to a deeper meaning, sometimes by focusing on an important theme or idea that might not have been discussed by simply facilitating the students’ comments. An important component of an interactive read aloud is providing students with opportunities to build meaning together. This gives students the opportunity to contribute to the conversation surrounding the text and also learn together as they read the story

Reference: Wiseman, A. (2011). Interactive Read Alouds: Teachers and Students Constructing Knowledge and Literacy Together. Early Childhood Education Journal38(6), 431–438.

The Case of the Missing Books: Getting Kids to Read By Jeanette Larson

Jeanette speaks in her article about how most teachers and library media specialists are continually looking for ways to encourage students to read. Most young people today do not get enough practice reading and often do not take time to read for pleasure. Itseems like common sense, but it is also backed by research, that those who enjoy what they read will read for enjoyment. Joan Lowery Nixon, who wrote hundreds of mysteries and won the Edgar Award four times, knew firsthand that kids will frequently read mysteries when they won’t read anything else. Jeanette suggests that we use that interest to advance reading skills, encourage curiosity and learning, and promote reading for pleasure, and that books will soon be missing from library and classroom shelves!

Jeanette shares that at the most basic level, mysteries are adventures that include puzzles and fast-moving plots to capture the reader’s attention. Laurence Yep says, “A good mystery challenges the mind.” He points out that, “From infancy, each of us is a detective, ferreting out clues and puzzling out answers.” It’s difficult for even the most disinterested student to ignore the clues and avoid being caught up in the solution. Sure, there is often a degree of predictability, especially with series mysteries, but that very factor frequently entices the reader to read another. According to Richard M. Oldrieve, “If you are a baby boomer . . . then you might have gotten addicted to reading through a number of adventures series started by Edward Stratemeyer…” Those series, including Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, are still available, have been updated for modern readers, and continue to thrill thousands of readers every year. Over the next fifty years, other series were introduced and many, like Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald Sobol and Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, endure. More contemporary series are also being written to entice children to read, including the tongue-in-cheek Chet Gecko books by Bruce Hale, Wendelin Van Draanen’s Sammy Keyes series, and the Alphabet Mysteries by Ron Roy.

Due to the nature of the genre, most mysteries for children will involve a crime. Some, especially those written for older youth, will even include a dead body. For younger children, the crimes are generally fantastical, commonplace, or petty. Art Dog by Thacher Hurd features a mild-mannered hound that fantasizes about his crime fighting skills, while the detectives in Cynthia Rylant’s High-Rise Private Eye series search for missing lawn chairs, stolen statues, and pilfered balloons. Middle grade mystery readers usually investigate relatively benign crimes. They might solve an ecological crime, as in Deadly Waters by Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson or figure out a family secret in The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright.

Mysteries for young adults, such as When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester or Close to a Killer by Marsha Qualey, actually include a murder, but even then, the criminal acts are not overt. Fraud, mistaken identity, spite, and revenge are the most common motives for crimes in mysteries for young people. Plots include twists and turns, and even a few “*red herrings” that add to the enjoyment. Mysteries challenge gifted students and provide incentive to those students who struggle. Mysteries often involve the classic hero, a single individual who faces a challenge, but they also encourage teamwork, self-control, and understanding. In mysteries, good or righteousness usually prevails, leaving the reader with a sense of hopefulness and optimism.

In mysteries, the general investigative method is observation and deduction. Much like scientists using the scientific method, detectives must observe; formulate a hypothesis; test theories; predict an outcome; and draw a conclusion, which may then be tested for validation. Teachers and library media specialists can utilize mysteries in classroom activities to encourage students to try new projects and incorporate various disciplines into an environment that kids will enjoy. Offer games or activity sheets that encourage logical deduction, reasoning, and critical thinking skills. Read a favorite mystery aloud. Stop before the conclusion and discuss the key elements: means, motive, and opportunity. Ask students to discuss possible conclusions, and then read the ending to check the class’s detective skills. Simulations of mysteries provide an entertaining way for teachers to encourage research and teamwork, as well as spur interest in reading.

Reference: Larson, J. (2004). The case of the missing books, getting kids to read. Library Media Connection, (2), 14. Retrieved from

7th Grade to 9th Grade

Letting Children Take the Lead in Class By Ana Maria Andrade and Delia Hakim

In this article it is described how for more than a year there had been team-teaching first graders at Ochoa Elementary School in South Tucson. Using play learning and real world problem solving, an alternative program in This elementary school is cultivating confidence and a love of learning in bilingual first graders. The goal of the changes scene in this elementary school was not only to educate the children, but also to keep them interested so that they won’t become drop outs. It is believed that as children identify and solve problems or address actual challenges, their efficacy and self confidence will grow. These children are doing the work of real scientist, mathematician, or artists. Often teachers let the student guide they’re combined classes direction, and attempted to help them realize the significance of their problem-solving.These children learn using their own language, learning styles, and thought processes, all at their own level of development. Teachers now seeing learning through a much more powerful lessons, viewing the whole child in relation to his or her prior knowledge and dominant language and culture. The more they looked, the more they could see. The children are described as being flexible and spontaneous, and the teachers have become more flexible and spontaneous in their curriculums as well. They are no longer hung up on one thematic unit at a time. In general these teachers are free to determine what’s best for their classes and they are loving every minute of it as are the children and parents.

Reference: Andrade, A. M., & Hakim, D. (1995). Letting children take the lead in class. Educational Leadership53(1), 22. Retrieved from

Effects of SelfCorrection Strategy Training on Middle School Students’ Self-Efficacy, SelfEvaluation, and Mathematics Division Learning By Darshanand Ramdass and Barry J. Zimmerman

 Ramdass and Zimmerman state in their article that historically, mathematics teachers have focused on teaching academic content. But that students continue to use maladaptive learning methods because their effects are not understood or are hard to tell the difference. There is concern about the quality of American students’ achievement in mathematics. They pose the question of what can be done to increase American students’ achievement in mathematics to make them competitive internationally?  They suggest that what is missing is a necessary additional component of the learning process: self-regulation. Self-regulated learning is thought of as a self-controlled cycle of processes designed to enhance a student’s goal attainment and sense of agency. Ramdass and Zimmerman state that Research indicates that self-regulatory skills improve students’ academic performance . More specifically, self-regulation refers to the processes people use to activate and sustain their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions to attain learning goals.

 It encompasses processes such as setting goals, using strategies to solve problems, self-evaluating one’s performance, seeking assistance when needed, and satisfaction with one’s efforts. An important motivational aspect of self-regulation is students’ self-efficacy beliefs. Ramdass and Zimmerman’s research reveals that self-efficacy beliefs influence students’ academic achievement in addition to their prior math knowledge and skill. Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capability to organize and perform a set of activities necessary to complete a task at a specified level of competency. It is a predictive measure of one’s capability to perform on a future task. Bandura (1997) hypothesized that self-efficacy beliefs increase one’s motivation and ultimately one’s success on challenging tasks. Self-evaluation is a key self-regulatory process that involves setting and using standards to judge the quality of one’s performance.

Ramdass and Zimmerman report that students often are inaccurate in judgments of their capability on a task or test and that a significant disparity between one’s judgment and subsequent performance can be problematic. Their research indicates that accuracy correlates positively with their performance. In a number of studies, they found that even after prolonged training, many students remain inaccurate in their judgments, indicating that these judgments are hard to learn or resistant to change. Low achieving students are less accurate and more overconfident than their high-achieving counterparts who tend to be under confident, but perform better.

The results of their study have important implications for teachers. They suggest that teachers need to monitor students’ self-efficacy judgments as well as their mathematics learning in order to provide optimal instruction. Inaccuracies in self-judgments appear to be a major liability for elementary and middle school children. Classroom practice must not only cultivate the knowledge to succeed, but should nurture the belief that one can succeed. Second, accuracy training can be incorporated in a curriculum such as asking students to judge how they will perform on a set of math problems in classroom work. After they solve the problems, teachers can show students how well they judged their capability to solve the problems. This training will enable students to assess their capabilities more realistically. Students who can assess what they know and what they do not know will become better self-regulated learners. Third, strategy training in mathematics is very important. Students learn various strategies in school to solve various mathematics problems, but they may not apply the strategies if they do not see their value.

Teachers need to show the connection between strategy training and self-efficacy judgments and how these psychological variables relate to better mathematics performance. Students who utilize strategies in problem solving will develop higher efficacy compared to those who do not utilize them. Fourth, the present research confirms that accurate self reflection is important to students’ success in math, especially when learning on their own. Children do not automatically self-evaluate progress. Teachers can help students to hone this invaluable self-regulatory skill by giving them frequent opportunities to evaluate what they have learned or where they erred after completing a task. Students’ self-efficacy is strengthened with tangible indicators of progress. Finally, unrealistically low self-efficacy beliefs and not lack of ability or skill may be responsible for avoidance of challenging academic courses such as math. Teachers will have to identify these inaccurate judgments and design and implement appropriate interventions to change them.

Reference: Ramdass, D., & Zimmerman, B. J. (2008). Effects of Self-Correction Strategy Training on Middle School Students’ Self-Efficacy, Self-Evaluation, and Mathematics Division Learning. (Cover story). Journal of Advanced Academics20(1), 18–41. Retrieved from

“What’s Math Got to Do With It?”: Numeracy and Social Studies Education By Alicia R. Crowe

Some may argue that our students surely graduate with strong numeracy because they are being required to take more mathematics classes than ever before—at least three years and often four years of math in high school. However, those courses do not typically help students learn what they need to make reasonable judgments of and inferences from information presented to them in the media, by the government, or by other citizens (i.e., in blogs, editorials, e-mails).

Just as understanding what words mean and how they are being used in a specific context, the understanding of numeric information and how it is being used is vitally important when making decisions on issues that affect the quality of life of ourselves and others in our society (i.e., making informed decisions about healthcare, making decisions about the value of polling data). Numeracy relates to the knowledge, skills, and dispositions or habits of mind related to understanding and using certain aspects of statistics. Examples include

(1) being able to understand economic data and making decisions about what to do (buy a house, sell your house, take out a loan) and what to ask (Is this interest rate appropriate or is it predatory lending? Does the interest rate hike affect my daily life?)

 (2) being able to understand scientific or medical information and make decisions about whether there is a risk to taking a drug

(3) being able to understand polling data and ask critical questions about the way the poll was administered, who was sampled, and how the sampling occurred.

All of these items seem to be at home in the social studies. The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) defines social studies and explains its purpose in the following way: “The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world” (National Council for the Social Studies 1994, 3). If, in fact, we are to help students develop into thoughtful citizens who can make informed and reasoned decisions, then numeracy is certainly an aspect of the curriculum that should be examined and considered in social studies education.

Although there are many aspects of numeracy that are important to citizens, there are four areas that are fundamental for citizens to know to be thoughtful, informed, active members of both a democratic republic and an evergrowing global society. These are fairly easy for teachers to begin to incorporate into social studies curriculum and instruction:

(1) the ability to understand raw numeric data in context

(2) the ability to understand percentages in context

(3) the ability to understand the meaning of average

(4) the ability to interpret and question graphs and charts.

So, what does math have to do with citizenship? More than we often admit. What can a social studies teacher do since we are not teachers of mathematics? We can help students develop habits of mind that compel them to think about numeric data in a critical manner. We can help our students develop a certain level of statistical understanding in the context of what they study with us; we can teach them how to ask meaningful questions of data; we can help them develop the habit of mind that pushes them to consistently look beyond the surface; and we can use mathematics in real world contexts that support the learning of social studies content.

Reference: Crowe, A. R. (2010). “What’s Math Got to Do With It?”: Numeracy and Social Studies Education. Social Studies101(3), 105. Retrieved from

Dos and don'ts for getting kids to read By Stephanie Dunnewind

For many young kids, reading a book is like taking a bath: It's hard to get them in, but once there, it's nearly impossible to get them out. With TV, computers, and video games an easy distraction, parents have to work a little harder to entice kids with books during the summer. But experts emphasize tons of benefits as kids explore literary worlds and keep up vital academic skills. So how to do it? Librarians offer the same advice for all ages: Keep a wide variety of books available. Check out your local library's summer reading program for activities and prizes. Ask for recommendations. "We live, eat, and breathe books and can share lists of show-stoppers for kids to read," enthused Sharon Chastain, a King County Library System children's librarian.

Here are more ideas by age group:



• keep lots of books everywhere, such as in the baby bag, in the car, or next to the sofa. "Anywhere your baby can see them and grab them," notes the King County Library System's Ready To Read project.

• let babies and toddlers hold the book. Help them find the front, back, top, and bottom.

• look for books that tell stories in rhyme or song.

• help kids make their own books by drawing and writing a simple story. Take dictation; let them write easy words.

• find projects from literature. Bake a recipe mentioned in a book. Or read the Three Little Pigs, then build your own model house. Use a Fan to see if the house will stand or fall.

• read what you love. "Children will develop their favorites, but parents should read stories they like or remember fondly from their own childhoods, too," said Chance Hunt, youth-services coordinator for the Seattle Public Library. "Your love For a particular story will come through in your reading, and children will enjoy the stories more."

• visit one of the new KCLS early-literacy learn/play modules. Located in the Woodinville, Sammamish, Issaquah, Skyway, and Federal Way regional libraries, these free-standing structures feature literacy learning tools on one side and niches for reading selected books on the other.


• worry about chewed books. "The books will find your baby's mouth, but they will also find his heart," assures KCLS.

• be surprised if you read the same book over and over, and still hear demands of "Again!"

• Feel pressured to use silly voices, or even read all of the words on the page. "It is more important to read with enjoyment and pleasure than it is to put on a performance for your kids," Hunt notes.

• be compelled to read in 20-minute blocks. "This shouldn't be a Forced march," advised Hunt. Break it into small pieces: Share a story during breakfast, read a quiet bedtime story. "Taking cues from your child and grabbing reading moments will keep it fun for both of you."



• read a book, then watch the movie version together. A current example is Hoot, based on Carl Hiaasen's Newbery Honor Book.

• tie a book into an activity. For example, read about the history of baseball or a favorite player before catching a game. Pick up a book about seashells or tidepool creatures for a beach trip.

• take a book on an outing so kids can discover the joys of reading outside. Bring pillows and lay a blanket on the grass.

• read out loud. Even if kids know how to read, pick something a bit above their ability.

• listen to books on tape or CD on driving vacations. If you have a struggling reader, consider audio books anytime. "When kids get stuck in the hard work of learning to read they miss the magic of reading," Chastain noted. "Letting a book on tape do the hard work leaves the child free to enjoy the experience."

• start a book club with family or friends. "A family reading the same books has something in common to talk about, and each person's perspective or ideas about a story is valuable," Hunt said. "Discussion about books inevitably leads to larger conversations."


• just stick with old favorites. Try a new genre, with help from a library or children's bookseller.

• make reading a chore or burden. "Then the benefits are lost," Chastain noted.

• dismiss reading except from a traditional book. Technical manuals (about computer programming, for example), comic books, and skateboarding magazines count, too, said Rosalie Olds, teen-services librarian at King County's Fairwood Library.



• talk to your teens about what they're reading and what they like. "Give them a chance to gush about their favorite new manga (Japanese comic) series," suggests J. Marin Younker, teen-services librarian at Seattle's Central Library.

• get a subscription to their favorite magazine.


• judge content. "Like adults, teens enjoy beach reads during the summer, especially after a school year of analyzing the classics," Younker said.

• assume teens have outgrown the library. The Seattle Public Library, for example, will offer teen-targeted summer programs, such as anime showings and doughnut drop-ins.

References: dos and don’ts for getting kids to read. (2006). Teacher Librarian34(1), 28–29. Retrieved from

CODING: The New 21st-Century Literacy? By Scott Lafee

Scott writes in his article that a lot of educators aren’t waiting. In recent years, there has been rising interest in teaching computer science and coding in public schools. Advocates call it the new 21st-century literacy, essential to success in a digital economy. Teaching computer science from kindergarten through high school became a national ambition of the Obama administration. It’s hard to gauge how high the popularity wave actually is because data are sparse. In a 2016 report published by Google and Gallup, 40% of educators surveyed (1,000 teachers, 9,800 principals, and 2,300 superintendents) said their districts offered at least one computer science class, up from 25% in 2015.

 The survey reported broad, albeit not particularly clamorous, support for the value of teaching coding among students, parents, teachers, and administrators. A 2015 survey by Change the Equation, a nonprofit that promotes STEM, found students ranked computer science classes just behind graphic arts and performing arts in popularity, and ahead of English, math, history, science, and foreign languages. The College Board reported that more high school students took the AP Computer Science A test in 2016—nearly 55,000—than ever before, an 18% increase over 2015. “Computer science is the driver of innovation across all careers and fields, from the sciences to the arts. People see this all around them,” says Jane Margolis, a senior researcher at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Informatics. “What is important to stress is that computer science is not just for those who want careers in the tech sector.

 The new tech landscape is impacting our entire way of life—communication, entertainment, obtaining of information, political power.” But progress is uneven, and issues about diversity and resources remain entrenched. The Google/Gallup poll found a lack of qualified teachers and funds to be chronic barriers. More than 90% of U.S. schools don’t offer AP Computer Science. Educators remained worried about adding another class to an already overladen curriculum. Minorities and females continue to be under-represented—the former because they are less likely to have access to computers at school and home; the latter because social perceptions persist that computer science is a male bastion.

Reference: Lafee, S. (2017). CODING: The New 21st-Century Literacy? Education Digest83(2), 25. Retrieved from


10th Grade to 12th Grade

A “Tad” of Science Appreciation By Audrey C. Rule

Audrey explains in her article that sometimes we forget that there are three parts to science learning: science knowledge and facts, science process skills such as observation, classification, and inference-making, and attitudes toward science. Science attitudes include both intellectual attitudes, such as skepticism and desire for reliable sources of information, and emotional attitudes like curiosity, perseverance, cooperation, and openness to new experiences. Emotional attitudes prevail among young children and are shaped by their experiences.

Because one’s attitude toward science carries with it an unconscious state of readiness and directs choices of experiences through decisions and evaluations, early childhood educators need to provide experiences that will foster positive attitudes toward science. The memory of these nature experiences is a lifelong gift. Some of Audrey’s pre-service teachers wrote how enjoyable it was to remember and relive their previous encounters with nature. They mentioned how they could again almost shiver in the cold air of an ice storm or feel the emotions of wonderment and awe of nature as remembered swans drifted into view. The quiet tadpole observations described in her article helped children develop these positive attitudes. There are many other opportunities for children to observe nature in everyday situations, especially when the teacher draws attention to the value and interconnectedness of what is observed. For example, Audrey describes how perhaps there is a spider building a web at your school, a place where one might examine and compare different pebbles, or some new plants bursting through the leaf litter in the yard, etc.

Preparing our youth to be scientifically and technologically literate is a challenge. American fourth- and eighth-graders perform lower in science and mathematics than students in many other developed nations. Students tend to avoid science and mathematics classes in high school and beyond, having never developed a liking for these subjects. In our busy lives, few take time to relax and notice the tiny miracles around us. Therefore, it is crucial for young children to develop an appreciation and love of nature that will sustain them throughout their lives. The problems the Earth is facing are large, complex, and pressing: global climate change, deforestation, loss of species, depletion of fossil fuels, population explosion, and air/water pollution, among others. Taking the time for preschoolers and early childhood students to make observations of nature can make a difference their enjoyment of the world around them, their outlook on science, and the future of our planet.

Audrey described the importance of nurturing children’s connections to the natural world. Humans have a natural affinity for life and the natural environment, however, if this attraction is not encouraged when a child is young, an aversion to nature may develop instead. This dislike may be manifested as discomfort in natural areas or even scorn for places that are not human-constructed, artificial, air-conditioned environments resulting in devaluation of the natural environment. Audrey compares this narrowing of the range of possible joys in life to the psychological and spiritual limitations of not being able to achieve close human relationships. She suggests that honoring a child’s exploration of the natural world through sensory experiences be encouraged with children not being rushed into more cognitive ways of perceiving the world. Children need to know nature well so that they can bond with the Earth. Audrey finds early childhood a critical period for developing this bond through direct experiences with plants, animals, and the physical environment. She notes ‘‘Research indicates that certain brain patterns are developed only if the child is interacting with the environment, and the earlier, the better’’

Resource: Rule, A. (2007). A “Tad” of Science Appreciation. Early Childhood Education Journal34(5), 297–300.

Loving to Learn: protecting a natural impulse in a technocratic world By Richard House

In Richards article he describes how nearly a century ago the great modern educationalist describe how the soul of the child naturally wants to develop and unfold in accordance with his own nature. He contrasts this view with what he describes as the “sheer intensity” of the educational surveillance culture that has been “engulfing childhood” in recent years. He describes the relentless incursion of imposed cognitive intellectual learning at ever earlier ages as just one example of these harmful trends. And this is in the face of mounting international evidence that the “too much too soon” educational ideology may be doing untold harm to a generation of children. The notion of developmentally appropriate education is of course central in all of this.

Richard suggests that mainstream education seems to have lost touch with a deep understanding of the developmental needs of children, and is, rather, preoccupied with foisting an “adult-centric” agenda onto children which is both developmentally inappropriate and educationally unnecessary. He states the increasing media reports about young children becoming board and disaffected with learning at ages as young as six or seven, how the rates of mental illnesses and children are at record levels and relentlessly rising, how Ritalin prescriptions are also soaring as our society medicalizes and pathologises what might well be children’s understandable response to our backwards educational culture.

What Richard is talking about here, then, is the freedom of imagination, a delicate human quality that can all too easily be damaged, sometimes irreparably, by modern educational practices. Richard states that to deny imagination is to deny the very creativity that makes self possible. That modern schooling establishes a dictatorship over the child in which reality is defined by the “other” imagination, is denied for the predetermined out lines of the “other’s”, denies the very existence of the individual child and denies that child all opportunity to learn. Richard advocates doing away forever with the fixed curricula, universal standards, and intensive surveillance through which we discipline our children. He states that “until we create an environment in which the child may use the educational establishment to create himself or herself, until we serve only as a frame on which the canvas me up here and paint, we will continue to practice a form of violence upon the child, denying him or her, growth, health, and experience.”

Richard suggests that parents fortunate enough to be able to home education or send their children to a small school run along humanistic lines, are more than able to nurture their children’s inherent love of learning. He concludes with the suggestion that above all, it is up to all the educationalists, parents, citizens; to take responsibility for finding a better way to educate our children. Because if good people really do “do nothing” in the face of modernity’s assault up on our children’s education and indeed upon the very being deeply damaging values and practices are far more likely to prevail. There are parents who are defying the directives of their culture. Such parents are not only helping their children to have a child hood, those parents will help to keep alive human tradition.Our culture is halfway toward forgetting that children need childhood. Those who insist on remembering shall perform and noble service.

Reference: House, R. (2002). Loving to Learn. Paths of Learning, (12), 32. Retrieved from

Exercising ‘The Right To Research’: Youth-Based Community Media Production as Transformative Action  By Paula M. Salvio

Paula’s article explores the media’s practices used by the Center for Urban Pedagogy, a non-profit community-based media organization in New York City. Taking as her point of departure a digital media investigation into bodegas in the south Bronx (neighborhood grocery stores), the Paula explores how CUP uses the power of art and design to cultivate civic engagement among youth, in part by strengthening participants’ public speaking, digital media and research skills. In interviews with participants, Paula finds that this work mitigates participants’ expressed fears of being dismissed as boring when speaking with public officials, a fear taken seriously through a reading of the work of child psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott.

Winnicott worried that the person who felt boring too often retreated from participating in civic life. Paula argues that if youth are to claim what Appadurai describes as the fundamental ‘human right to research’ in the public realm, then the civic as well as the psychological dimensions that enable participants to engage in transformative action must be strengthened.

Paula states that the challenge for educators committed to establishing the right to research among youth involves strengthening their psychological as well as their research capacities, so that youth do not experience themselves as boring and all that entails. Such strengthening can prepare participants to engage in forms of transformative action.

Paula further supports that these strengths may very well rest in an understanding of transformative action as a form of highly developed play that happens, at the interface between our inner world and external reality. It is out of this space, Winnicott claimed, that a ‘creative reaching-out can take place.’ A reaching-out, paula adds, that invites psychic freedom in an era when the English lesson is bound more and more tightly to standards of practice that seek to compulsively predict and control the outcomes of learning.

Reference: Salvio, P. M. (2013). Exercising “The Right To Research”: Youth-Based Community Media Production as Transformative Action. English in Education47(2), 163. Retrieved from

Generation Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z By Michelle Crouch

Teens are getting less sleep than ever before, and experts are calling it a national health crisis. Michelle’s article describes the shocking consequences--and real strategies for getting the rest teens so desperately need.

You know drinking or using drugs is dangerous, but the latest research shows that not getting enough sleep (like 85 percent of teens) can be just as hazardous. Missing just two hours of shut-eye quadruples your risk of a car accident and affects your decision-making. What's more, experts say the teen sleep crisis is fueling a rise in mental-health issues and suicide. "Teens are getting less sleep now than ever before," says Dr. Nathaniel Watson, a sleep specialist at the University of Washington. "This is a public health epidemic."


Most high schoolers never got a full eight hours of sleep and a busy after-school schedule coupled with demanding academics often kept teens up into the wee hours. Even when teens could get to bed earlier they don’t feel tired. And there's a scientific explanation for that: In your teen years, your body's circadian rhythm, or natural clock, shifts. Melatonin, the hormone that makes you drowsy, is released later, making it difficult to fall asleep before 11 p.m. Couple that with the fact that, on average, high school starts at 8 a.m., and it doesn't leave much time for rest.

Therefore Teens are being squeezed on both ends


Michelle states that researchers have found a clear link between your sleep and phone habits. "Today's teens have more distractions than any previous generation," says Kristin Daley, a psychologist who treats sleep problems. "It takes tremendous self-control to ignore those dinging notifications so you get everything done and get to bed."

And even after you finally close Snapchat, your phone--yep, the one innocently charging on your nightstand--can still ruin your sleep. That's because a screen's glow keeps your brain from releasing melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy).

Meanwhile, your body needs shut-eye. Sleep allows your cells to repair themselves and your muscles to recuperate. Your brain also processes all the information it collected that day during sleep, so you can learn and remember.

Sleep is especially key for teens: It's when the hormones and chemicals your developing brain needs are released. Skimp on rest and you might struggle to think clearly or keep emotions in check.


Michelle gives an example of taking a Spanish test: when an answer just won't come to you, even though you nailed it on last night's practice quiz (10 sleepless hours ago). Or maybe you miss every free throw during your basketball game--and to top it off, you snap at your teammate on the way to the locker room.

These may seem like unrelated events, but here's the surprising truth: Each may be a direct consequence of your lack of snooze time. In one study, just an hour less of sleep each night made sixth-graders perform like fourth-graders on mental tests. Other research shows that sleep loss makes you run slower and miss more shots in sports, while doubling your odds of injury.

Some experts even argue that teens would be less likely to take risks or suffer from anxiety and depression if they could just get enough sleep.

"When you're sleep-deprived and you run into a stressful situation, whether it's with your friends or something else, you're going to get angry and upset," explains Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann, a pediatrician in St. Louis, Missouri. "I see a lot of depression, anxiety, and even suicide attempts in teens who aren't getting enough sleep."

It's stunning to think that by spending more time in bed, you could potentially lift your GPA, get along with your loved ones, excel on the field, and just plain feel happier. But scientists say it's true--many teens are walking around like zombies without even realizing it.


We get it: With so much on your plate, sleep seems like the easiest thing to sacrifice. But that's a mistake. "You cannot hack your sleep," Watson says. "If you want to be your best version of yourself, sleep is crucial." And the only way to get it is to go totally lights-out for at least eight hours.


"I can catch up on sleep this weekend."

Sorry, you can't reverse sleep deprivation by sleeping away your Saturday. After two lengthy snooze sessions, sleep-deprived people were just as spacey as they had been before they tried to catch up, research shows. Sleeping in will also make it harder to fall asleep Sunday night--it's a vicious cycle!


You know the drill: You fall into bed exhausted, but an hour later you're still awake… with your mind whirring. Try one of these expert strategies to stop your racing thoughts.

* Count backward from 100 by threes.

* Think about a cute animal, your favorite sports team, or something else that makes you happy.

* Get out of bed and read something boring in dim light for 10 minutes.

* Take deep breaths.


Think you're destined for drowsiness? We asked an expert to solve three of the most common sleep problems, straight from the mouths of other teens. Read on for the help you so desperately need.

THE FACTS THAT MATTER: The Teen Sleep Crisis

Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep each night

Only 15% of teens get that much shut-eye

1 in 5 teens get fewer than 5 hours of sleep a night

What's the big deal?

Sleep loss has scary side effects! Short Term Long Term YOUR MOOD You're cranky and irritable Higher risk for depression & suicide YOUR HEALTH Your body can't fight off colds and craves junk food Higher risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease IN SCHOOL It's harder to think, remember, and problem-solve Lower grades and test scores IN SPORTS You have slower response times and less power Greater risk for injury

DANGER! Drowsiness causes 100,000 car crashes every year 8 A.M.

Average high school start time

9 A.M.

A more ideal school start time (Your body is built to stay up late--and sleep later too!)

Sleep Well

* Quit caffeine at 2P.M.

* Have bedtime rituals like taking a shower

* Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and pitch-black

* Put your phone in another room

Reference: Crouch, M. (2017). Generation zzzzzzzz: teens are getting less sleep than ever before, and experts are calling it a national health crisis. Read on to learn the shocking consequences--and real strategies for getting the rest you so desperately need.(YOUR HEALTH). Choices/Current Health, (1), 10. Retrieved from

Reading in the Cyber Age: Getting Teens Wired to Read! By Julieta Dias Fisher and Ann Hill

Though librarians design activities to promote literacy and the enjoyment of reading, the reality is that students have many demands and distractions in their busy lives, such as school, work, television, the Internet, and video games. This has led students to expect quick bytes and to develop a "fast food" mentality for entertainment needs. Unfortunately, reading does not fit that bill.

So, how do we entice students into the habit of reading for pleasure? One way is to connect students' love of technology with the joy of reading. A home page's interactive and multimedia features make it a perfect vehicle for reading promotion that can engage and excite students. Use your home page to move the books off the shelves and into the hands of your students. Fisher and Hill’s article describes several methods of offering an online Reader's Advisory service.

1. Chapter A Day

As an alternative to posting lists of books, why not give students a taste of a chapter of a book and hook them into reading? For example, subscribe to the Chapter A Day Book Club at <>. This company e-mails a five minute segment of a book to subscribers every day so that by the end of the week readers have read two to three chapters. The following week introduces another book to readers, thus hooking them into a story and consequently into reading. Reading a few pages a day does not seem as overwhelming as reading a whole book. The company also provides links to the students' school libraries and the local public libraries that have their collection online so that students can reserve the books. Display an icon for Chapter A Day on the index of your home page, and promote it through your school's daily announcements, library newsletters, and e-mail to students.

2. Online Book Request Form

"Do you have any good books?" This is a perennial question asked by students and faculty. In assisting teachers and students to select books, your goal is to match the person with the right book. A convenient way to accomplish this is to conduct an online library reference interview. Your home page can provide a form that students and teachers can complete online.

Planning an Online Book Request Form First, organize book lists by genre, grade level, interest, or reading level. Make sure that your book lists include summaries, which will assist you in making recommendations. Also, bookmark reader's advisories so you have quick access to book reviews.

Second, find out as much information as possible about the student's or teacher's reading preferences. The following items are suggested content for your form: name, grade, e-mail address, interests, hobbies, genre, favorite authors, list a book you enjoyed and the reason you enjoyed it, date needed by, and page limit.

Third, allot time each day to review requests and to locate books that students might enjoy reading. Allow yourself at least 10 minutes per form. This is probably the same amount of time that you use for reader's advisory during a face-to-face request. Be sure to include a disclaimer on your online form that states that this service is for the students and staff of your school; you do not have time to provide this service to everyone who submits a request.

Finally, when you e-mail suggested books to students and teachers, include the book's call number.

Design Considerations for Online Book Request Place the link for the Online Book Request Form on the Reader's Advisory section of your home page. Don't worry about creating forms because most Web-authoring programs include form makers. Or, you can use a form maker found on the Internet, such as <>.

Always include your name and e-mail address on the form so users know whom to contact. As with other sections of your home page, include navigational tools so users can get back to the Reader's Advisory Page and index of your home page.

You can view an example of an online book request form by accessing Washington Township High School IMC in Sewell, New Jersey, <>.

3. Student Book Reviews

Book reviews are another reader's advisory service that can be offered on the reading section of your home page. This allows students to share books they enjoyed and gives students an opportunity to learn about books they may not otherwise have read. An added plus is that student book reviews foster good writing skills.

Planning a Book Review Page Collaborate with the language arts teachers to have their students submit book reviews for the home page. If you have a book club, encourage members to submit book reviews.

Use interactive forms for the submission of the reviews. Design separate forms based on the age level of the writer. Make sure you add a disclaimer to your book review page that these reviews are solely the opinions of the writer and do not reflect the opinions of the school district. Include the following items: first name of the student, grade, title and author of the book, short synopsis, and rating. Remind your students that other students in their school as well as students worldwide will see and use their reviews, so they should proofread for spelling and grammar before submission.

Design Considerations for Book Review Page Organize these reviews by student name, grade level, genre, or title of the book. If you do use student names, check your district's policy because most districts permit only the use of students' first names and initials of the last name. Archive your student book reviews alphabetically by title of the work. Place the link for this archive directly below the book reviews.

4. Read-In

In recent years, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities have realized the impact of reading in peoples' lives and have actively promoted the importance of reading by organizing Read-Ins. A Read-In occurs when a community selects a book and encourages everyone in the community to read it over a certain time period. Ideally, the Read-In encourages the school community to discuss the book in class, in the cafeteria, in the library, and at the dinner table. What a wonderful way for your library and its home page to help foster a sense of community and a love of reading!

Planning a Read-In The first step in sponsoring a Read-In is to form a committee of parents, students, teachers, and administrators to select twenty-five books that the community would enjoy reading. Direct the committee members to your home page so they can access the book lists and book reviews to assist them in selecting books for the Read-In. Remember that you will also have an additional role as a literary consultant who answers any questions that arise about the various books. Once the committee has selected twenty-five titles for your school, design a Read-In voting ballot so students, teachers, and parents can vote for the top three books they would like to read. The ballot is distributed in the principal's newsletter and on your home page. The committee tabulates the ballots, and the entire school community reads the book that receives the most votes.

Next, notify the public libraries and local bookstores about the selected title so they can stock up on the book. Finally, set time limits for the Read-In. The grade level of your school will determine this. During the Read-In, collaborate with the language arts teachers, and have them spend a few minutes each day discussing the book with their students.

Content of a Read-In Work with your language arts, reading, and graphic arts teachers to have their students design posters and bookmarks that will be displayed throughout the school and on your home page. Encourage parents to take a night out and read with their children. After parents have completed the book, have them e-mail the library with their thoughts and reactions to the book. The e-mail response form can be set up on your home page. Create a virtual bulletin display of the activities associated with the Read-In, and post it to your home page.

5. Online Book Club

While many students and teachers may be able to participate in an after-school book club in your library, this may not be possible for others because of scheduling conflicts. You can resolve this problem by hosting an online book club on your home page.

Planning an Online Book Club The easiest way to start an Online Book Club is to limit participants to teachers, students, and staff in your own school. With more experience, you can expand the book club to other schools. To get your book club off the ground, select a few books from all genres and levels that would appeal to both teachers and students. Then ask them to select the books they want to read and discuss. Don't forget to give your local bookstores and libraries the titles of the books that have been selected for the Online Book Club so they can have enough copies on hand. Make sure you post the book list and the book discussion dates on your home page so readers can plan ahead and make time to read them. Organize the Online Book Club by grade, genre, classics, multicultural titles, interests, or hobbies.

Set up your Online Book Club as a listserv or a chat room. Each has advantages and disadvantages. An online chat room allows participants to share their opinions in real time, so the discussions are often lively and unpredictable. The disadvantage is that the time set for the online book discussion may not be convenient for all participants. In comparison, a listserv has no scheduled time period for the discussion, thus allowing the participants to discuss the book when it is convenient for them and to access any discussions they have missed. The disadvantage of a listserv is the loss of spontaneity.

Set a time frame for each online book discussion. Limit each discussion to a one-month period. If you start the club in September and end it in June, there will be 10 book discussions per year. If using a chat room format, determine an online meeting time that is convenient for all members.

If you are conducting the online book club using a chat room format, you will have to select a moderator to lead the discussion. Usually this is a librarian, but here is an opportunity to extend the collaborative process by sharing the responsibilities with the other teachers in your school. Invite teachers to volunteer to lead the discussion for the book of their choice. Be sure to provide them with guidelines for online book discussions.

Design Considerations for the Online Book Club The Online Book Club is a separate category on your reading page. List the titles of the books along with pictures of their dust jackets and the dates for discussion of each book. If you are using a chat format, make sure to post the exact time of the online chat. Don't worry about creating your own chat room. You can use AOL's Instant Messenger <> or Talk City <>. Just locate a link to this site on your Online Book Club page.

Post the link for the Online Book Club on your reading page and on the index of your home page. Archive past book discussions on your home page chronologically by title and by date. Add a disclaimer to your home page reminding users of the proper netiquette when they are in the chat room or on a listserv. If you are using a listserv format, create a group e-mail list of participants, similar to LM-NET. Include directions on how to subscribe to the listserv.

Decorate your home page with book covers from the Internet or scan covers into Paint or PhotoShop. You can also design a logo for the Online Book Club, which can be as simple as a public domain graphic or a student creation.

You can access examples of online book clubs at Athena Media Center in Rochester, New York, <> and Sehome High School Library in Bellington, Washington, <

Reference: Fisher, J. D., & Hill, A. (2003). Reading in the Cyber Age:&#160; Getting Teens Wired to Read! Library Media Connection22(3), 23. Retrieved from