All 59,000 four-year-old Pre-K students in NYC public schools to receive books this summer

I visited the Abyssinian Head Start center on 138th Street in Harlem on Tuesday, one of the last days of school before the summer break.

About 40 four-year-old students will be graduating from the Pre-K program there this year and moving into Kindergarten in new schools in September.  A few of my colleagues and I were there, along with representatives from the NYC Department of Education, to help get the kids excited about reading during the summer.

We were there because we know this: Whether or not each of these students reads (or is read to) this summer will likely impact whether he or she succeeds or falls behind in Kindergarten.

That’s how important summer reading is, according to research.

The NYC DOE is doing something wonderful to help these kids this year. All 59,000 students in the city’s public Pre-K programs are receiving packs of books (purchased from Scholastic) to take home this summer. And each of the students at Abyssinian is now ensured of owning his or her own books, including the girl in this photo.

We know that students who have books in their homes are more likely to succeed academically. And we know that students who read during the summer are less likely lose ground and fall behind.

It’s great to know these students will be starting off Kindergarten on the right foot.

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Happily reliving the past: A My Bookprint guest post

How much do we love Thursdays? A lot. Because, of course, Thursdays are Bookprint days! This week, we have another intern from the Corporate Communications department, Chris Guerin, sharing the five books from his Bookprint on You Are What You Read. We’re really digging the mix between adult classics, kid favorites, and those perfect middle grade reads in this list. Which five books would you choose? Head on over to You Are What You Read and get started!

It’s nearly impossible to narrow down a lifetime of reading into the five most influential books I have ever read. However, assigned with this difficult task, I happily relived all of the great storylines, characters, and memories of past reads. After serious deliberation, (and a little heartache for some of the books left behind), I finally emerged with the final copy of my Bookprint. These books have all helped shape me to become who I am today as a reader, writer, and a person in general. I like to believe that my Bookprint is well-rounded as it contains a little sports, some mystery, a little adventure, and of course some classics:

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: This book was my favorite when I was a child. I used to make my mom read it to me every night before I went to bed. The rhythmic writing was so soothing to me, and it was something I could relate to as I myself was going to sleep. I’m sure my mother would have appreciated some variety, but I’m pretty sure for an entire year straight the words were recited to me, to the point I had memorized the whole story. Goodnight room, goodnight moon, goodnight cow jumping over the moon…

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A Wonderstruck tour!

There are days when it seems like the entire world is talking about Wonderstruck.  In our Twitter stream, on our Facebook page, and on this very blog, people are getting excited for the fall release of the newest book from bestselling, award-winning author and artist Brian Selznick. And why shouldn’t they? Kirkus calls it “visually stunning” and “completely compelling” in its starred review, and Shelf Awareness contends that “Selznick may have topped even his Caldecott Medal-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” That’s some serious praise.

And speaking of Hugo, did you know there’s a 3D movie coming out this Thanksgiving that’s directed by none other than Martin Scorsese? Clearly, it’s a good time to be a Selznick fan…because in addition to all this great movie and book news, we have even more to share! Drumroll please…

Wonderstruck is going on tour!

Continue reading A Wonderstruck tour!

Should every child go to college? (and other questions worth debating…)

Should every child have the goal of going to college?

Should we as America have a goal of sending every child to college?

Does college pay off for everyone?

There’s been a lot of attention paid recently to the debate over the value of a college degree. And the question of whether it’s a smart investment for every child, depending on their goals and interests. And whether its healthy for America in the 21st Century to promote college as a crucial stop on the educational path of every child.

David Leonhardt wrote in the NY Times on Sunday about data that shows how a college education clearly pays off for students financially, whether or not they go into jobs that technically require a degree or not.

In a post for The Atlantic, David Indiviglio, asks the important followup question: “should college degrees be important in the economy today?” (emphasis added by me) He says that as the value of a high school degree has declined and more and more young people go to college, there are more potential job applicants that stand out. “If this trend keeps up forever, perhaps we’ll one day have locksmiths with PhD’s,” he writes.

I find it interesting to think seperately about each of the three questions up at the top of this post. I think they all deserve our attention.

What do you think? Should every child go to college?

(Flickr photo by j.o.h.n. walker)

The value of homework

Flickr image via somegeekintn

The Los Angeles Times recently reported on a new policy in the L.A. Unified School District that states that homework can only account for 10% of a student’s grade. The policy aims to take the pressure off of students who lack academic support at home or have demanding work schedules. And while the measure may please students, not everyone agrees. Opponents believe that homework assignments teach students to organize their time, and learn that they will be held accountable for their actions, both of which are important real-world lessons. And the LAUSD’s policy is not unique – other school districts are putting limits on how much homework can be assigned, so that students have more time for extracurricular activities.

What do you think? Is there still a place for homework in today’s schools?

The psychology of inspiration

There’s something special about teachers-turned-writers (or really, teachers-turned-anything. I have a lot of love for teachers!). They seem to have an intrinsic grasp for what kids like to read, what they need to read, and what will keep them reading. That might be why I’m so in awe of this interview from OpEdNews with Blue Balliett, author of books like The Danger Box, Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and The Calder Game.

A former teacher, Blue talks about how her teaching helped inform her writing. (Some of the activities her characters do in their classrooms are even cribbed from her own experiences — she says, for example: “All of the assignments that Ms. Hussey gives her class in Chasing Vermeer were assignments I’d dreamed up for school, and some of the classroom conversations in the book are actual exchanges.”) But what I found most fascinating in this interview with her was her thoughts about inspiration and ideas.

“The Danger Box may have been started by a string of bratwurst and a wooden floor covered with sawdust,” she begins. “Add to that a swing door that claps shut with a pulley, shelves of homemade jams and jellies and pickles, and used knives for sale. I’m not even a big meat-eater, but walking into Drier’s Butcher Shop on a steamy July afternoon several years ago, I was a goner.”

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YouAreWhatYouRead.com named a 2011 “Best Website for Teaching and Learning”

In October 2010, Good Morning America called YouAreWhatYouRead.com, Scholastic’s online book community, the “Facebook for readers.” Since the incredible shoutout from Robin Roberts, YouAreWhatYouRead.com has welcomed more than 15,000 book lovers (from all around the world and of all ages), who have joined the site to share their five most influential books.

This past Sunday, the American Association of School Librarians named YouAreWhatYouRead.com a 2011 Best Website for Teaching and Learning. Presented by the AASL, the “Best Website for Teaching and Learning” honors the year’s  top 25 websites that bring exceptional value to inquiry-based teaching and learning as embodied in the AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.
Everyone — especially those of us who have been working on the site since it was just a small idea from our staff meeting — couldn’t be more thrilled and excited to see the growth of the site and to receive such wonderful recognition. Every day, we log on to the site to see what people are saying about their Bookprints and to see new members explore adding books to their favorites’ list and friends to their Bookmates.
Continue reading YouAreWhatYouRead.com named a 2011 “Best Website for Teaching and Learning”