By Leib Lurie | Categories Book Deserts | Educators | Equity | K-5 Literacy | Learning Loss | Opportunity Gap | Summer Reading | May 19, 2022

In 2012, my wife Barb and I were commiserating about the state of reading in the country—specifically what she, a 4th grade teacher, called ‘the dreaded summer slide’.

Far too many kids, particularly from families that struggle, head back into class every fall, with less opportunity than their peers. They are not as engaged. They struggle with review material. They hold back, as their enthusiastic and engaged classmates wave hands in the air and shout out answers.

This struggle is real. Poor children are historically woefully behind their well-off peers, and every summer, the opportunity gap widens. After failed initiatives, generational disadvantage, and Covid exacerbated opportunity disparities, 75% of poor children are not proficient in reading. Can you imagine not being able to read your textbooks in school?

Our education system is struggling, and with the recent upsets and extended breaks in learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more kids are struggling too.

Ten years ago, Kids Read Now was formed to eradicate the summer slide, which has been shown to cause 2/3 of the achievement gap between kids with opportunities and those who are at-risk and living in poverty. We just knew that a viable, successful, scalable summer literacy program could be developed and would give disadvantaged kids a real opportunity to become great readers and, in turn, give them the means to escape a life of poverty.

We have made tremendous progress. Our program has been refined and scaled. In 2022, we project that over 80,000 students in 31 states will each be gifted 9 books. Our team of educators selects popular and loved books that kids are most likely to want and to read and create a Wish List catalog of over 130 titles to choose from. By partnering with Penguin Random House and other top publishers, Kids Read Now is able to offer the best books for PreK-5 kids.

Whether we are serving a tiny remote community in Alaska or thousands of students in one of America’s largest school districts, Kids Read Now provides a turnkey approach to literacy success. We can’t wait to see what our next ten years can do for America’s future.

“I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you doing this for our kids. Some of the students in my room only read books at school because they have no books at home. So, thank you very much for helping them out… I know how much they love getting a book.”   – Annie Groves, WV

 

Read more from our Spring 2022 Newsletter!

By Naim Sanders | Categories Challenges | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | February 11, 2022

To put it mildly, the COVID pandemic has been a game changer, a shake-up, a reset, and a force that has made us re-examine who we are, what we can do and a reminder of what we can overcome if we work together in education. Essentially, it has been one of the greatest teachers that has provided some of the most valuable lessons about life. It doesn’t matter where you teach, what grade level you teach or how long you have been teaching, the impact of the COVID pandemic has been felt in a multitude of ways. Although the goals of teaching and meeting the needs of students remain the same, the rules have changed, the challenge has upped its ante, and educators across the U.S. have discovered more about themselves than any other time before over the past year. The impact of COVID has come with some valuable lessons that could only be taught through our current climate in education. Like other trials and tribulations in life, COVID has served as a teacher, but it is our responsibility to embrace and learn the lessons as we expect our students to.

 

Lesson #1: The strong do not always survive, but the most adaptable do!

 

During COVID, having strength as an educator is an asset to navigate unfamiliar times and circumstances. But even the strongest educators still struggle to maintain a high level of teaching and a sense of purpose to effectively educate students. That is because it isn’t simply about how strong you are in your instructional delivery, classroom management or your knowledge of the curriculum. Even if we were great at these things, due to the challenges of COVID we must rethink how we serve students and families. The challenges to successfully educate students, maintain healthy relationships, motivating students for engagement and adhering to a host of other requirements requires such as “contact tracing” has required adaptability. Adaptability is defined as, “the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions”. That is simply what schools, teachers, leaders, students, and parents had to do if they wanted to be successful. You cannot typically fix new problems with old solutions because new problems usually require new ways of thinking and adapting to circumstances in new and unfamiliar ways.  Essentially, we are dealing with challenges that years prior we never knew we would have.  You must be willing and able to think differently if you want to experience success. In the end, when this is over and schools have been allowed to return to some sense of normalcy those teachers and leaders that remain standing strong will be those that had the ability to adapt to their circumstances whether familiar or unfamiliar.

 

Lesson #2: You are better than you think you are.

 

I am usually an optimistic thinker who sees the good over the bad in most situations. However, during the summer before the 2020-2021 school year I wasn’t as optimistic about school starting. With all the new guidelines and rules that we needed to follow, the requirement of wearing masks and practicing social distancing, I thought it would surely be a disaster! I envisioned me and my staff running around all day trying to get students to put their masks on, students would refuse to wear masks and we would be handing out hundreds of masks daily. Maybe it was only my thinking and for my school (I suspect not), but I was wrong. The students and staff in my school are doing an amazing job, better than I had imagined. Wearing masks is not a major issue and to be honest, only a handful of issues have occurred.

 

Many educators were like me, and questioned if the operations of schools would work, whether students would possess the ability to be engaged and would the essentials of learning take place through in-person learning, blended learning, or remote learning. The answer has been “yes” not only in my school but also in schools across the country. I know it has been far from perfect or ideal and there is not substitution for students engaging in face-to-face learning provided by a teacher, but I truly believe that educators are doing their best in spite of the circumstances.  No one that I know has ever taught students during a global pandemic or led a school in one prior to COVID. So, current educators continue to come up with solutions without being able to draw from historical references. The research and data is still being collected, the rules and guidelines are still being created, and changes almost seem to come daily. However, from what I am witnessing we are doing better than we think. In fact, in education we are often doing better than we think we are when we consider our “locust of control”. The problems is, we don’t give ourselves a chance to grow because we think ourselves out of opportunities to become better from our challenges. Once you confront a challenge you should always envision a winning outcome and always remember it not about how strong you are but it is more about your ability to adapt!

 

Lesson #3: Creativity solves more complex problems than intelligence.

 

I am not one to tell you that intelligence is not important because honestly, I would choose intelligence over the opposite of intelligence anytime. However, intelligence and creativity serve different purposes. The intelligence of doctors, scientist and others have helped us understand COVID, the impact on the human body, how it is spreads, the nuances of the virus itself and most importantly how we are able to protect ourselves. Intelligence and research has served as a high degree of importance in these matters so we can be educated and learn how to protect ourselves and reducing the spread of COVID.  However, once we begin to understand the virus, how it impacts our body then we can use our greatest asset, which is our creativity to think of solutions and appropriate responses. This is what we have been doing in schools and in classrooms since COVID has arrived. It is imperative that you can use creativity as a strategy in educating and providing services to students. Based on the information we receive, we will be better equipped as to what additional interventions are needed, which appropriate safeguards need to be incorporated and how we can efficiently meet the diverse needs of students.  It will also take creativity to support students, teachers, and schools. Consider your school’s schedule, the use of technology, people working together, resources that have been created and new platforms of communicating with parents. You can even consider the creative designs of masks that people wear as a small example of the extent of our creativity since COVID. We as educators have become more creative whether we like it or not. We have used creative energy to solve challenges that are new and unlike we have experienced before. Therefore, it is imperative as educators that we never underestimate the power of our abilities and use our creativity to solve challenges as we face them in schools.

 

We are in a new dimension of educational services.  However, although many things have changed, there are still many things that have remained the same.  We are being impacted by a new variant of COVID, but students still need the support and engagement of caring educators and that will never change or go away.  I encourage you to sue your creativity, adapt new ways of thinking and maintain a positive outlook and know you are capable.    In education, we must reformulate old ways of doing business and devise new strategies to meet the needs and serve students in creative and meaningful ways.  There has been a lot that has been lost but above all we must never lose our humanity and keep the people at the forefront of our decisions, actions, and intentions.

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By Dr. Anne Marie Ristow | Categories Challenges | Choices | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Family | Equity | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Reading | Reading Instruction | January 14, 2022

There’s this widgetsmith on the opening screen of my iPhone that reads, “As long as we’re creating it’s not too late to change our story.”

People’s stories motivate and inspire but they also connect us, help us grow. Throughout my years of being an educator, tucking in beside my fellow professionals, really hearing their journey, it has been transforming. Listening, truly listening, opens my mind and eyes to perspectives, broadening a reality that I was otherwise unaware. Stories also shape and expand our teaching blueprint.

Growing up a small town girl in the northern United States gave me loads of opportunity to get lost in stories. From listening to my grandparents share stories to being mesmerized by great readings at the local library, life opened up for me.

Given my best friend’s father was the town’s librarian, many evenings and weekends were spent lounged across soft rugs with giant pillows traveling to far away places through the pages of a book. As I breezed through the letters on the page that made words into sentences and sentences into adventures that fed my imagination, I was quite aware that the very experiences I found solace within offered great pain and sometimes discomfort for my friend. Needless to say, I did a lot of reading aloud.

My friend loved to hear stories and it was an incredible treat when getting to view stories playing out live on a stage. You see, the process of reading caused her great angst. She is dyslexic. Take it to the classroom and the print on the page represented very different things for the two of us.

What I noticed as a young child was that just because our brains worked differently, a common experience such as reading text had contrasting outcomes for each of us. Someone very dear to me once shared, “Teachers can change the way they teach but dyslexics cannot change the way they learn.” What this evolves into for an instructional design perspective on the diverse needs of learners: the secret strength I found in teaching through a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) lens. In the case of how I learned reading and how my friend learned reading: presentation of materials, or provisions of multiple means of representation as well as action and expression, were key but equally important was engagement.

Let’s take my friend for example. Given learning derived from her mainly through auditory (hearing) or tactile (touching), she learned by hearing or touching and then that information would process through her auditory or tactile memories. When you compare that to my approach to learning being mainly visual (through my eyes), I could comprehend problems, solve them and commit the solution to my visual memory. For me, everything I would ‘read’, both real and symbolic, would link to my perception center. Recognizing a word and processing the word to meaning didn’t require actually hearing the word. For my friend, visual symbols were compromised causing her to compensate by relying on what she heard in her head to associate meaning.

Ready to leverage my childhood story to expand your teacher blueprint to be more inclusive? The following visual provides some examples of building provisions within your teaching and learning to offer students with dyslexia agency in learning. Oh, and don’t overlook this included audio file reading the visual, it’s called inclusive design.

 

Strive to expand your teaching blueprint to include the complete Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (UDL). You’ll be so glad you did and so will your students!

There is a lot to learn from stories. But just like my childhood story, there are often missed opportunities of great significance in the unheard. Stories change our perspective, open our minds and eyes, broaden our reality and shape and expand our teaching blueprint. Learning to truly listen in on the narratives of our profession has proven to be my greatest teacher and perhaps it can do the same for you, too.


By Dr. Kelly Moran | Categories Choices | Educators | Engagement - Community | Engagement - Family | Journaling | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Reading | January 7, 2022

Rejoice! We have made it to a new year.  Many of us educators were itching for 2020 to come to a rapid close only to find ourselves wishing 2021 away just as quickly.  Despite the recent challenges we have encountered, many of us still had the pleasure of ending the year with some sort of a holiday tradition in which gifts were exchanged.  No matter how you feel about the past year(s), I hope that you were able to find joy in both the time spent with loved ones this past holiday season and in the exercise of exchanging gifts. Of all the presents I give and receive each year, my most favorite and treasured ones are always books.

 

The gift of a book provides more than just an enjoyable reading experience, it adds value and companionship to the recipient’s life.  This year instead of falling into the same familiar routine of setting a short-lived resolution around the common goals of finance and fitness, I thought I would instead resolve to pay forward the gift of reading a great book.  Here is a list of twelve ways in 2022 that you can join me in the pursuit of sharing with the world the joy of receiving and reading a book.

 

  1. Email the Author.  I am often deeply intrigued by an author after reading his/her work.  I wonder what he/she is like as a person, what other books he/she has written, who their significant other is, and if they have children.  Many times I conduct an internet search and follow him/her on social media.  Despite all of this junior level web investigating, I rarely take the time to thank the actual author him/herself for the work he/she created and how it influenced me.  This year I plan to send an email to the authors whose books I read to thank them for their work, effort, and time spent in crafting something of value for the world.
  2. Dinner Table Talk.  Family dinners are wonderful times to reconnect and engage in thoughtful conversation.  Too often though, they unintentionally become complaint sessions highlighting the day’s hardships.  Consider reframing dinner time chats by sharing with your family the latest book read.  Tell your tribe what you learned from the book or how you are applying it to your life.  This is also a great way, if you are a parent of young children, to get your offspring to open up about the books they are reading as well as model for them how dialogue about text can strengthen comprehension.
  3. Journal Entry.  Talking about a book is a wonderful way to gift its message to others, but writing about it allows for an even deeper level of intimate gratitude for the work.  If you are anything like me, journaling is a habit I’m not consistent with, but one that I strive to practice more consistently.  Set a goal to write a journal entry after each book you finish this year. This intention will help you stay accountable for opening up your journal more often and engaging in reflective practice of content consumed through reading.  If you are stuck on what to write, consider the following questions:  What did I learn? How was I feeling while reading?  How can I lift one or two ideas from the book to become a better version of myself this year?
  4. Amazon Review.  Ever notice that reviews seem to be laced with negativity and despair?  Change the tone and gift your positive thoughts of a recently read book out on the Web.  You’ll feel good about the uplifting content you’ve put out in the world plus the author will undoubtedly benefit from your time spent in alerting others to his/her work.
  5. Staff Meeting Share.  For many of us, monthly staff meetings tend to be filled with boring updates, frustrating questions, and unwelcomed mandates.  Why not liven up your next staff meeting with a sharing out of a recent book you’ve read this year? Showing your team that you do more in life than just tell them what to do all the time, will not only help you appear more personable, it will also build your intellectual credibility.
  6. Schedule Send.  Draft an email to yourself and schedule it to be sent to your inbox one month from today.  In the email ask yourself how you’ve been applying a recently read book to your life and what themes or new ideas learned from that text have yet to be applied.
  7. Showcase to Students.  Whether you are a classroom teacher, a curriculum coach, an adjunct professor, or a building principal showcasing a recently read book with students in your organization will spread the gift of having a role model who values reading.  The act of conducting a book share to students can be done in-person or virtually.  Giving students a glimpse of what adults are reading, how they talk about text, and how books can impact a life is a priceless gift.
  8. Book Breathe.  Life is busy and even hectic and stressful at times.  Most mobile devices and smart watches today have a breathing or meditation app. Tap the app and mentally revisit the book you are currently reading or one you have recently finished.  The act of closing your eyes, slowing your breath, and focusing on only one thing will give your body a chance to settle its heart rate, increase your happiness level, and set you up for a smoother transition to your next appointment.  During your book breath moment you can focus on a single character, a new concept learned, visualize yourself in the setting, or simply exhale thanks to the author for crafting something that brings you happiness.
  9. Conference Proposal.  What better way to give out the gift you’ve received from a recently read book than by presenting on the topic at a conference to colleagues in your field?  Consider submitting a conference proposal that highlights a recent accomplishment aligned with the themes or principles from a book you’ve recently read. Share with the world your story of finding inspiration in a book to help channel the energy to achieve something great in your personal or professional life. Look at the theme of an upcoming conference you want to attend and ask yourself how the books you’ve read so far this year align to that topic.
  10. Tweet.  Snap a picture of the book cover and hop on Twitter.  Tweet your image with your recommendation or comment.  Don’t forget to tag the author and include a hashtag if applicable.  Not only will the author feel the gift of your social media gratitude, but your followers will receive the gift of a great recommendation of what to read next.
  11. Buy an Extra Copy.  What better way to give back to others the gift you’ve received from a new book than by buying a second copy for a friend, family member, or colleague.  In this instance both the author and the recipient benefit from your generosity. Keep the joy of gifting alive all year long.
  12. Unexpected Treasure.  Letting go of something you love isn’t easy, but it is an ultimate sacrifice that has the potential to yield immeasurable happiness.  Write a message on the inside cover of the book you just finished and leave it someplace in your town or community for someone to stumble upon unexpectedly.  Perhaps you decide to leave it in a waiting room, on a park bench, or in a hotel room.  No doubt the universe will select its next intended recipient with care.   Who knows…maybe he or she will keep the gift giving going and pass that same book along to someone else after they’ve finished reading.

By Dr. Andrew Johnson | Categories All | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Writing | November 5, 2021

Are you looking for an effective way to teach writing for students in kindergarten through graduate school using an easy 5-step process? Look no further! This recorded webinar, How to Teach Writing by Dr. Andy Johnson, can show you how easy writing can be when you follow the 5-step process.


By Dr. Mechiel Rozas | Categories Book Deserts | Choices | Educators | Equity | K-5 Literacy | Reading | Reading Instruction | October 29, 2021

I recently caught up with a dear colleague. When I asked her what she saw as she worked closely with our teachers and teacher leaders, her immediate answer was “politics”.

 

The concept that everything is political started with Aristotle and is consistently restated today. Although I avoid them, I cannot deny that what I eat, what I wear, what I read (or don’t read) is a political act. Looking at the news or even local school board elections remind us how polarizing today’s environment is and how the inertia of our society calls for us to pick one side or the other. My desire for universality led me to wonder about concepts that are less political and valued by all. Literacy for everyone came to mind. The ability to read, write, think, listen, and speak are foundational skills people need to successfully live and participate in our lives and communities. The assertion that all children (and adults) have strong literacy skills is something we can all agree on. We call that a core belief.

 

Core beliefs can only be realized when our practices align with and support the initial conviction.  Donalyn Miller shares that time, access, and choice are bricks with which to build a solid foundation. I am an excellent cook. I am masterful because I have an interest in food and I have cooked every day for over 30 years. In contrast, I am unlikely to become a great tennis player if I only watch it on TV. Children must have time to read things they enjoy or are interested in each day. If you are telling yourself, “Of course! That’s a given!” I challenge you to ask any child age 4-19 to track how much they read each day and how much they enjoy what they read. The data may surprise you.

 

To read each day, you have to have access to text. Access means that you can easily get your hands on something to read. In the positive column, we have a ton of portable digital content via phones and iPads or laptops. A quick survey of your friends and family about where and how they read, demonstrate we all have preferences. I like to read digitally but if it is non-fiction, I will want a paper book I can mark up. Recent research tells us that children need access to both digital and print. As they age, children should drive which they use for their specific purposes. Time and access are bricks that build mastery, choice excites and accelerates literacy.

 

Imagine you walk into a bookstore where they scan your brain and then directed you to graduate-level books because that is the level you read at. No magazines, cookbooks, or mysteries! Choice is the third brick in that solid wall of practice we should all agree on. I was so fortunate as a child because I not only had access to books, I had parents who encouraged us to read about the things we were interested in which amplified the time I was allowed to read. Visiting areas in which literacy levels are at their lowest inside and outside of schools, you see that there is little access to books, there is no choice about what to read, and time is spent on drills and isolated practice of skills-effectively killing a love of reading. Time, access, and choice in the construction of literacy is a political act we can all support.


By Dr. Kamshia Childs | Categories All | Book Deserts | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Community | Equity | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Opportunity Gap | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | October 8, 2021

A literacy environment should be cultivated by its curriculum.  Learning how to read and develop literacy skills is a process that will benefit a child their entire life.  It is the foundation for other subjects, and a manner in which students learn to communicate and learn about their world, near and far.

The process to teach the required skills necessary is complex, and varies depending on the needs of each learner. In my experience, literacy teaching and learning should be a “dream”. A dream in the sense of literacy learning being a priceless gift—and a dream in the sense of having curriculum and teaching practices which address Diversity, Relevance, Engagement, Access, Motivation (D.R.E.A.M.).

D.R.E.A.M. Literacy focuses on practices being implemented into instruction by educators, as well as encourages at-home support and partnerships in using diverse texts, popular culture and technology, and multimodal resources.  D.R.E.A.M. represents several pieces necessary to address and provide quality and equitable literacy instruction for all. When planning literacy lessons, assignments, and making curriculum decisions educators and parents should consider the following elements:

Diversity

Diversity brings about a wide spectrum of issues that educators can be faced with.  Willingness to learn, accept, and apply the culture (VERY IMPORTANT: Culture does not just mean ethnicity or race) of students to instructional practices is key. Here are some ways to address diversity in literacy:

 

Relevance

Students need to know how to apply the knowledge being taught, and how it applies to them.  Students want to feel like they are included and are represented in a learning environment. Students want to know why it’s important, and how it is useful. Students need to know why they are developing literacy skills and where they will encounter them in their future. Making content relevant includes:

 

Engagement

Engagement starts with learning the interests of the students, merged with the academic knowledge needed. Engagement also involves educators utilizing multimodal approaches in their lessons and work with students. Some great multimodal literacy strategies include:

 

Access

Ease of access to resources and empowering parents/guardians to help build literacy skills at home is necessary for growth. Not all students have the opportunity to have access to books in their home. If books and reading are left out of the home environment, is it really that important for a child and their family? Insight on how to continue a child’s learning outside of the classroom doors is crucial.  The following ideas are recommended:

 

Motivation

As far as motivation, our role is to grow our students’ skills and learn what makes them excited to learn—this is very important with students who have so many unique needs that are changing as society changes daily. The main ingredient for motivation in a literacy classroom is choice.

 

In closing, a literacy environment should thrive on partnership between the internal and external learning communities.  Parents and educators are the essential component that provides students the opportunity to see literacy as a tool of advancement and an escape— teamwork makes the “dream” work.

 

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By Dr. Kamshia Childs | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Equity | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | October 1, 2021

Most students either really love to read and find joy in growing and sharpening their literacy skills, or they feel the opposite. Their experience depends on two things- the instructional decisions made and the environment in which they learn.  Educators are often told to create a “literacy rich” or “print rich” classroom setting, but what does that really mean? R.I.C.H. should address four different aspects: Relevancy, Inclusiveness, Creativity, and Hands-On approaches.

Relevancy

Students, younger and older are often disconnected from the literacy skills and expectations that are required in standards-based instruction and assessment. This is because they don’t see the “bigger picture” of learning the skills and strategies that are often taught in isolation. The foundational stages of literacy involve building word sense, concepts of print, and lots of repetition and practice—but educators shouldn’t stop there. The students who often struggle lack the connectedness and relevancy of the materials shared. To gain sense of relevancy and what resonates with students, conversations, bookstack cultivation, and surveys should take place.

Inclusiveness

Relevancy and inclusiveness go hand in hand.  Whether planning the instruction or the “look” of a space, students need to see themselves in the materials presented. Not only do students need to see themselves, but they need to see others who are not like them as well.

When thinking about inclusivity and literacy, one might think of diversity, and the representation of various racial and ethnic backgrounds and perspectives. This is crucial, but just a starting point. Representation can be present in literacy settings, and students still not understand the importance or value of a concept or idea. Therefore, it is important to know that in addition to representation, students need to be exposed to an environment that allows them to feel safe (with learning new skills and contributing), and take risks (with new strategies, with new resources), and be inclusive of families (inside and outside of the classroom).

Creativity

Literacy learning is often repetitive and can be boring for some. The more creativity that is sparked within lessons—the better. Creative ideas for literacy learning involve using traditional skills and practical, everyday materials and happenings to get students to understand.

Example: Connecting technological and popular culture terms with academic literacy terms

Hands-On Approaches

We want students to read, but don’t give them enough opportunity to write (or see the correlation between the two).  We ask students about other writers and authors’ ideas, but don’t challenge them to see themselves as authors.  Writing centers, blogging opportunities, and spaces where students can critique and explore all facets of literacy (listening, speaking, reading, writing) is a climate that would provide hands-on learning in a “R.I.C.H.” classroom.

 

The literacy environment has evolved, just as education has changed.  Teachers often create themes at the beginning of a school year, and it is to get students excited about being in their class. The literacy environment needs a R.I.C.H. environment that is tailored to the needs of the students who are being served, and the learning community as a whole.

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By Dr. LaTonya Sibley | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Community | Engagement - Family | Games | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Parents | Social Emotional Learning | Writing | September 23, 2021

When was the last time you wrote or received a handwritten letter? For thousands of years, handwritten letters have played a critical part in our lives. In this age of digital communication, handwritten letters are becoming a lost art. Emails and text messages can be sent instantly; however, the impact of a good old-fashioned handwritten letter can bring a lifetime of benefits and memories.

 

Encouraging children to write and read letters will improve their literacy and communication skills, as well as their social and emotional development. Writing can reduce anxiety and stress, as well as decrease depression. It’s especially important during this time of virtual learning and social distancing to provide opportunities for handwritten letters. Let’s explore the academic and mental benefits of being PenPals!

 

Handwritten letters improve writing skills. We know that reading and writing go hand in hand… but did you know that writing by hand is just as important as reading? By definition, literacy is one’s ability to read and write. Research confirms that integrating reading and writing automatizes those skills. From kindergarten standards of using a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts to twelve grade standards of producing clear and coherent writing, all learners must be able to write to communicate ideas.

 

Handwritten letters improve reading skills. Research confirms that writing by hand activates reading circuits in the brain that promote literacy.  Additionally, research by McGinley and Tierney in 1989 confirmed that integrating reading and writing instruction leads to a higher level of thinking than when either process is taught alone. Providing opportunities to read a letter from a teacher or loved one will lead to improved reading achievement, better writing performance, and increased awareness of self, others, and the community.

 

Handwritten letters improve communication skills. It’s an old saying, but it’s true: Practice makes perfect. By habit, we mimic the voices around us – which is sometimes not the best grammar. Our speech is a direct reflection of our writing. Writing forces thought and articulation of main ideas while exploring main feelings. Letter writing provides an opportunity to improve vocabulary, knowledge, and sentence structure; and better writing creates a better speaker. What better way to practice and improve communication skills through writing than writing to someone you trust?

 

Handwritten letters improve self-awareness. Mental health and well-being are the core of who you are. Writing helps to clear the mind, recover memories and organization of thought, and refine ideas. Research confirms that a person can better understand his/her feelings more clearly when it’s written. Writing is a creative way to improve mental recall and well-being.

 

Handwritten letters improve relationships. In times like these, opportunities to connect with teachers and loved ones are important. Handwritten letters confirm the importance of relationships between educators and families with children. Daily writing opportunities provide deep connections while addressing reading, writing, and social development skills. Addressing the whole child is vital.

 

Tips:

 

So go ahead, grab a pen and notebook, and begin creating memories while positively impacting literacy, communication, social, and emotional development, simultaneously.

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By Andrea Weigand | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Family | Games | K-5 Literacy | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Social Emotional Learning | August 27, 2021

It’s all about the hook. Find what is inspiring to the youth and you find the hook into reading. Take baby steps even if needed. Not interested in reading a book? Start with a graphic novel. Even the old school Baby Sitters Club books are coming back with a vengeance in graphic novel form! Boys! Who doesn’t love adventures about a dog!? Try Dog Man! The goal isn’t to read MacBeth in first grade. The goal is to simply love reading.

Why? Well, let’s start with imagination. We tend to quickly lose the essence of imagination as we grow older. Those dreams you used to have as a kid, gone. Now you dream you are at work, even when you aren’t at work!

Second, you gather information. Yes, you in fact can learn from reading. Try the Who was/Who is/Where is collection. Going out of town? Find out if an inventor came from the area you are traveling. Going to the Grand Canyon? Yes, there is a great Where is the Grand Canyon book full of facts geared towards kids, but in fact, adults can learn a great deal too!

Third, reading is an escape from the real world. I don’t know about you, but TV shows just aren’t the same these days. However, Wild Kratts is pretty phenomenal. Books can take us on some pretty outstanding adventures.

What’s next for you? Maybe take your book to the park, sit on a swinging bench and enjoy nature at its finest. Have a hammock? What better way to spend the afternoon far off in your imagination swaying away in your backyard.

Try it sometime. Your kids might even want to join in on the fun when they notice your joy!

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