Archives for category: Literacy

Peter Greene reveals here why he loves to read. What is reading for? It is utilitarian, to be sure. It would be impossible to make your way in the world without knowing how to read nowadays.

This post focuses on the author Rebecca Solnit, who writes about reading and its pleasures.

Greene writes:

It is easy in the ed biz to get caught up in things like the reading wars and test results and arguments about whether or not Pat can read and if not why not. And in our very utilitarian reformster-created status quo, some lapse far too quickly to the discussion of reading as a set of Very Useful Skills that will make children employable meat widgets for employers on some future day, and therefor we shall have drill and practice and exercises to build up reading muscles for that far off day.

“But let’s not kill the lifelong love of reading,” is a common reply, and one that I’m not entirely comfortable with. It’s fuzzy and reductive. I can love peanut butter and jelly, but that doesn’t really open any windows on the world; I don’t love science, but understanding it at least a little has enriched my world. The act of reading is wonderful in a sense, like looking through a pane of glass in an otherwise dull and impenetrable wall. It’s magical, yes– but what’s really uplifting and life-changing is what we can see on the other side.

The reading technocrats and pure phonics police are focused on the future, and even the lifelong love of reading camp is looking forward. Both run the risk of forgetting that reading is useful for children right now, this year, this minute, as a way of finding answers to fundamental questions– how does the world work, and what does it mean to be fully human, and how can I be in the world? Reading gives children access to answers beyond their own immediate experience which is always limited and all-too-often, as in Solnit’s case, severely limited by the control of adults who have trouble working out answers of their own. In the crush to provide reading instruction that will benefit children someday, we shouldn’t overlook the ways in which reading will benefit them right now. Both reading science and lifelong love camps stand at the window and say some version of, “Let’s look at this window. Let’s examine it and study it and polish it and enter into a deeper relationship with it,” while anxious children hop up and down on their toes and beg to look through it.

Solnit likes the wall metaphor. I’m fond of windows. You can pick your own favorite. I just want to argue that we not get carried away by either the desire to reduce reading instruction to hard science or fuzzy emotions, that we not forget that there’s an actual reason for children to read, and that the reason exists today, right now. Don’t get caught up on the trees in the larger reading forest. The children are small people, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t working on big questions. School should help.

After I read this post, I ordered Rebecca Solnit’s book as a gift for a grandson, who will love it.

Vicki Cobb is a very successful author of children’s books and is active in promoting children’s interest in reading and in science.

She writes here about a wonderful FREE resource for children.

No catch.

Wonderful reading online at no cost.

She begins (open the link to read it all!):

In my recent post Why Education Should Always Be Nonprofit I examined some opportunities for corruption.  First, in the building of fortunes, like oil,  but also in the establishment of for-profit schools where money is siphoned off by realtors and administrators.  The product of education is not a commodity that generates enormous wealth,  like oil, but a human being who is capable of contributing to society.  So where’s the payoff for the individual for-profit investor in the school?  It’s certainly not in the production of educated individuals. Society at large benefits from that investment.

So I started a nonprofit organization to bring the work of the most talented children’s nonfiction authors to the classroom.  To that end, in 2014 we started publishing the Nonfiction Minute, a FREE daily posting of 400-word essays by top children’s nonfiction authors.  An audio file accompanies each Minute so that the more challenged readers have access to our content.  Millions of page-views later, we caught the eye of Paul Langhorst, the executive of SchoolTube.  And today, we have something new to celebrate:  We are launching The Nonfiction Minute Channel on School Tube.  Each post is the audio file of the author reading his/her Minute and is illustrated with art in a slide show.  Paul Langhorst, told me that teachers have been asking for more on quality reading and writing, so here we are. There are links on the School Tube post to the Nonfiction Minute archives so students can read the text of the Nonfiction Minutes if they are so inclined.   

A newly released study in Australia raises questions about whether digital literacy is actually undermining children’s ability and interest in reading.

A Four Corners investigation has found there are growing fears among education experts that screen time is contributing to a generation of skim readers with poor literacy, who may struggle to gain employment later in life as low-skilled jobs disappear.

By the age of 12 or 13, up to 30 per cent of Australian children’s waking hours are spent in front of a screen, according to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.

Robyn Ewing, a Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Sydney, said this was having a tangible impact on vocabulary and literacy.

“Children who have been sat in front of a screen from a very early age start school with thousands and thousands of words less, vocabulary-wise, than those who have been meaningfully communicated with,” Professor Ewing said.

Four Corners gained exclusive access to the initial results of a national survey of 1,000 teachers and principals conducted by the Gonski Institute.

The survey found excessive screen time had a profound impact on Australian school students over the past five years, making them more distracted and tired, and less ready to learn.

The Growing Up Digital Australia study has been described by its authors as a “call to action” on the excessive screen use “pervasively penetrating the classroom”.

The study lead, Professor Pasi Sahlberg, said while teachers reported there were benefits to technology in the classroom, most also believed that technology was a huge distracting force in young people.