ORA State Literacy Conference is coming February 2-3, 2018!!!
(The conference is now full and registration has been cut off.)
Take a peek at what is being offered!
Need to see the research on how important books are? Here it is!
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the professor of pediatrics at Michigan State University, who discovered and publicized the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan was recently in the news again when she was honored by the Heinz Family Foundation for her work. You might wonder what that has to do with literacy. The effects of lead poisoning on the brains of young children are well-known. Not only can lead poisoning cause many physical ailments but it also leads to developmental delays and learning difficulties. IDEA explicitly lists lead poisoning as a disability category. The consequences of lead poisoning for learning can be devastating and the effects are irreversible. Even low levels of lead in the blood result in poorer educational outcomes. The best that can be done for children is to provide as many support services as possible.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha was interviewed on public radio about how Flint is dealing with the water crisis. Dr. Hanna-Attisha noted that several evidence-based interventions have been put in place to mitigate the effects of lead and one of those is to mail a book each month to each child from birth to age 5. Wow—an evidence-based intervention is a book a month to each child!
We are reminded once again of the benefits of book ownership and putting books within easy reach of children. Children who are immersed in a book-filled environment have a better chance of overcoming the effects of lead poisoning. You may not know if your children are suffering from lead poisoning but you can know whether they are getting a steady diet of books.
What are you doing to put books into children’s hands?
I am currently reading the book Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. The book is a wonderful read for its ideas, its style and its use of language. I found this book in the little library that I have in my front yard. I hope whoever left it took an equally enjoyable book. This book caused me to reflect on how we readers choose books. I often rely on the recommendations of friends or on lists of award-winning books. But another important factor is accessibility. A book that is easily obtained is more likely to be read. That is why I have a little library in my yard. It is used by both children and adults in my neighborhood and by me!
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 42% of America’s children grow up in families that don’t have enough money for basic needs. These families aren’t buying books and many live where going to libraries isn’t easy or possible. As literacy educators, we see books as a basic need. Numerous studies show that access to books, especially book ownership, has a significant impact on reading achievement. Studies by Allington & McGill-Franzen have shown that giving children 12 books for summer reading can stop the summer reading slide. The research compendium published by Scholastic cites many studies that show the positive relationship between books in the home and reading achievement. One finding that was particularly impressive was that books in the home is a higher predictor of college graduation than the education level of the parents. The study also found that putting books in the homes of those that have the least has the most impact.
These research findings give a strong support for the projects of many of our local councils that are actively giving books to children. My own local council (Mountain Valleys) regularly gives away books at the food bank, Santa Mall and school resource fairs. We also prepared Family Literacy Bags to provide books for summer reading. Putting books in children’s hands is a key step to a lifelong reading journey.
What is your council doing to get books into children’s hands and homes? Send me your stories at email@example.com so we can feature your council’s projects in a future ORA blog.
Today I read two blog posts that were wonderful reminders for the start of the school year. It is so easy to be caught up in the details of organizing a classroom, putting up decorations, and getting our physical surroundings in order that we may not take the time to consider and reconsider our goals as teachers, especially teachers of literacy. As Mark Condon reminds us, our goal is to have students who choose to read as a lifelong endeavor. While we often feel the pressures of Common Core Standards and scores on state assessments, these are short term goals. What we really want is to create citizens that use literacy as a way of being thoughtful participants in our democracy. We need to be cautious so that we do not sacrifice this long-term goal for short term results. Paul Thomas reminds us that the opening day of class is to learn who we are and to develop the concept of why we are here. As teachers, we need to remind ourselves that the relationships with our students are of prime importance. As much as we teach what we know, we teach who we are and what we value. If we value literacy, we give time in our classroom for read-alouds, time to talk about books, and time for students to read self-selected books. These books need to be ones that engage the students at a difficulty level that matches their abilities. May your year be rich and fulfilling as you help students find just the right book that continues them on their paths to lifelong literacy.