By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | July 25, 2017

Motivating students is complicated. School staff knows what is required of the students by the state. The challenge has been to find a way to get the class to not only see that goal but to instill a desire to achieve it.

A healthy debate has existed for years whether or not rewarding student achievement is the right mechanism for this task. This means of motivation does work (as shown in a study by Robert Fryer, Jr.), but it is important that faculty use it properly.

Not all positive reinforcement is beneficial to students. Reinforcement generally falls into two categories: planned and unplanned. Planned motivation–offering a reward for performing certain tasks–can help students develop good habits over the years. It is the unplanned motivation, bribing a student to get them to perform, that ultimately harms students in the long run. There are distinct differences between the two.

This trail of breadcrumbs, filled with more books, more experiences, and more education about the joy of learning, can turn students focused on trudging from test to test to ones that understand the journey. Bribing students to prevent bad behaviors teaches them the wrong lesson. It shows them that they can get an advantage by using the right leverage, not by working for it.  A system of planned rewards makes the complication of motivating students into a learning mindset easier to do.

By KRN Admin | Categories Challenges | Educators | July 17, 2017

In the middle of the summer, it can be difficult to keep children motivated to read. There are pools to play in, friends running up and down the street, and for many, little desire to be reading anything.

School is not for another month, and there is not a scrap of homework in sight. They have a small stack of colorful and exciting books to read, and even more of them will be coming as they finish each one. Without the motivation of assignments or encouragement of teachers, reading over the summer could fall the wayside.

There are multiple ways to keep students motivated to read over the summer. These tips are just as valuable during the school year as well, encouraging students to read for pleasure as well as for homework and information.


Summer reading does more than preventing the summer slide. It is an opportunity to build their love of reading outside an environment where reading is required. Maintaining the momentum of reading through the summer will help students find an appreciation for reading they may not discover elsewhere.


By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | Parents | April 10, 2017

As an adult, when you hear about fables, you very often can point to a clear lesson you once learned from one. You may even find yourself repeating the lesson–or moral–like a mantra to yourself as you go about your day.

Slow and steady wins the race.

One good turn deserves another.

Birds of a feather flock together.

It’s not surprising that the lessons we receive from reading fables stay with us. Aesop’s fables have been passed down since well before the 1600s when they became widely distributed in print after the invention of the printing press. Before that, they were part of a rich tradition of oral storytelling. They were spoken from one generation to another, dating back to ancient Greece sometime between 620 and 560 B.C. Aesop, a slave and a storyteller, was credited with some the fables that stay with us culturally even today.

Not all fables we know and retell today were told initially by Aesop himself. That’s the beauty of the fable. They take a lot of twists and turns along the way as they are passed down, becoming more relatable. The stories change along the way but gaining power as they evolve.

If the presence of the lessons from fables likely to be sticking out to you right now as a reminder of your relationship with fables isn’t enough to convince you that these simple, yet often repeated stories have a profound staying power, you can also turn to the numbers as proof.

Aesop’s fables have been in circulation–orally included–for more more than 2,000 years. A search for Aesop’s Fables on still yields more than 7,400 results.

Fables have always held a special place in the young reader’s journey, though that is not how they initially began. Fables originally formed to begin discussions about philosophy or politics. Around the time of the Renaissance, they helped children make sense of the world around them, particularly what they are learning about morality and values. The tales emerged at a time in their lives when the decisions about what choices are right and wrong are often not yet as clear.   

Fables exist to help to make murky choices seem straightforward and clear, especially for young readers. Complex issues are translated into relatable and friendly terms.

What can we learn about morality from intriguing stories about lions, rabbits, mice or tortoises, for example, that may get lost from a seemingly boring lecture or lesson on morality from one’s elders?

It turns out a lot.  

Beyond the simplified lesson on morality that children can easily decipher for themselves from a fable, they are also learning a variety of other lessons and skills just from consuming the story. They may have been told the story orally, shown visually or read for themselves.

Because they are so simple, fables can be morphed or changed slightly to fit the audience. They can be told aloud, acted out or presented on paper, making them easily to deliver to a variety of audiences with different learning styles.

The stories themselves, also can be changed, making them more relatable by substituting different characters, settings or plot points, while keeping the base moral the same, so the lessons are absorbed more quickly.

The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages is preserved into perpetuity by a nation’s proverbs, fables, folk sayings and quotations. -William Feather

Through reading, hearing or watching them, children gain a sense of understanding about the world around them. They become more aware of human nature and feelings. They see the process that goes into decision making and the consequences that come as results of those decisions.  

Meanwhile, children also become better storytellers themselves, preparing themselves to become better readers of more complex stories. Stories turn them into better writers themselves because they’ve learned the basics of storytelling from the most basic of stories. They can begin to understand the basics of plot, an appreciation for character development and a greater proficiency in wrapping it all up with a clear conclusion that makes the audience think.  

Reading fables has quite a bit more to teach us than a quick lesson about how to outsmart a fox. These endearing stories have taught us a lot in the thousands of years they’ve been a part of our cultural traditions. We continue to learn more the longer we study them. But their presence begs the question: what else do they have to teach us in the millennia to come? Perhaps it is best not to judge them on moral alone.

Not everything you see is what it appears to be.

By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | Parents | March 27, 2017

For young readers, even those not yet reading, the value of libraries cannot be overstated. They open doors to a relationship with reading that can translate to well-rounded students and engaged citizens. By giving children space, opportunity and encouragement to lose themselves learning about any subject they desire, children can be made to feel comfortable and confident enough to be independent thinkers and decision makers. Knowing the benefits of choice is one of the reasons Kids Read Now allows the children to pick the books they want. When readers become freely engaged and entertained, they craft their journeys and following their path.

There are more public libraries than Starbucks in the U.S., according to the association, which reported a total of 17,566 locations, including branches.

Librarians are an important part of the network of adults tasked with creating and nurturing young readers. They ignite this passion within them as they grow. Crafting summer reading programs and library contests can act as incentives that help fill young readers with pride and a sense of accomplishment by rewarding their interest in literacy. Librarians can help children overcome obstacles and open up paths to answers. They guide them and provide them a way to independently discover solutions, knowledge and creative experimentation that becomes the foundation for a healthy relationship with learning.

According to the American Library Association, reference librarians in the nation’s public and academic libraries answer nearly 6.6 million questions weekly. There are more public libraries than Starbucks in the U.S., according to the association, which reported a total of 17,566 locations, including branches. Nearly 100% of public libraries provide Wi-Fi and have no-fee access to computers, giving patrons of all ages access to a valuable resource.

For students, libraries can play a major role in achievement. Research shows the highest achieving students attend schools with well-staffed and well-funded school libraries. Students make almost 1.3 billion visits to these libraries during the school year, which is on par with attendance numbers for movie theaters in 2014.

Libraries have had a significant influence on the majority of Americans’ lives. According to a recent Pew Research Center study on the future of libraries, 78 percent of Americans say they’ve ever been to a local public library, and 76 percent of Americans say that libraries serve the needs of their community well.

[bctt tweet=”Librarians are an important part of the network of adults nurturing young readers.”]

Of those who continue using libraries, 97% of those who used a library or bookmobile in the past 12 months would describe themselves as lifelong learners and a similar share of library website users (98%) also strongly identified with being lifelong learners.

From these statistics, it’s easy to see the value of libraries in establishing positive experiences at a young age and how that can translate into a greater appreciation for reading as an adult. What’s less able to be put into hard numbers, however, are the memories–the smell of books, the mazes of shelves, the memories of adventures through books–those things not tracked by statistics, that can ignite an ongoing passion in children that lives well into adulthood.


By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | February 11, 2017

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson saw the need to help schools with students that were struggling, but not dictate how that aid was provided. Title I of the Act stated that grants would be given to schools to help low-income families. The grants would be distributed to the state education agencies (SEA), who would then distribute them to the local education agencies (LEA). The LEAs would then allocate the Title I funds to the appropriate schools, who would spend them at their discretion. Over the years the grants have been spent in a variety of ways, from adding more teachers to classes to purchasing technology to help students learn outside the classroom. However, studies have shown that these methods have limited effects on improving test scores.

[bctt tweet=”The average class size in Ohio elementary schools is just over twenty-one students to one teacher.”]

Many school districts use their title one grants to add paraprofessionals, teachers aides with limited training, to the classes with struggling students. The objective of the aides is to relieve some of the pressure that is put on the teachers to help the students. This may be the case for the teachers, but for the students it is a different story. In Tennessee, Project STAR used funds to add paraprofessionals to the classroom. It was found that adding these aides, while giving teachers more time to focus on the students, did not significantly help with test scores. When asked at the end of the study about smaller class sizes or adding aides, 71% of teachers preferred a smaller class size (Boyd-Zaharias and Pate-Bain, 1998).

Another drawback of utilizing paraprofessionals is the varying degree of training they bring to the classroom. In a 1999 assessment of the Title I program, the U.S. Department of Education found that “paraprofessionals in high-poverty schools tend to have less formal education than those in low-poverty schools, and they are often assigned to teach-sometimes without a teacher present.” The report acknowledges their contributions to the community, but also notes that utilizing them as extra hands to do paperwork or meet with parents should be phased out. It does not directly help students improve their skills, which is the function of a Title I grant.

Even with the addition of other sets of hands and additional time for teachers to be with the students, there is nothing that can substitute the benefits of having smaller classes.

Schools add the aides to help manage the ever-increasing class sizes in some areas of the country. This does give teachers the ability to provide a little more attention to students that are falling behind in reading. However, that attention does not translate into higher scores. The additional time added was, on average, just twenty-five more minutes a day over the course of a week (Rowan, B. and L. F. Guthrie, 1989). Even with the addition of other sets of hands and additional time for teachers to be with the students, there is nothing that can substitute the benefits of having smaller classes. Project STAR also showed that when the number of students in a class rose above eighteen, teachers has less time to spend with lower performing students. This can disproportionately hurt low-income students. According to a 2007 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the average class size in Ohio elementary schools is just over twenty-one students to one teacher.

The cost of intervention is much higher, and less effective, than the cost of prevention. Utilizing Title I funds on programs that stop the slide from happening, like Kids Read Now, can give local education agencies and schools more fiscal flexibility. The funds saved can then be used for other programs or technology to help students learn math and reading. There are movements to help that money be used for in school WiFi and other methods to secure internet access at student’s homes to further reduce learning gaps. What could you do at your school with more funds?

By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | February 9, 2017

Kids Read Now is here to stop the summer reading slide and help struggling readers become proficient readers. Our summer reading program produces remarkable results for school districts seeking to raise K-3 reading scores, and we do it for about 10 percent of the cost of traditional intervention programs. Even though Kids Read Now is far less expensive than traditional intervention, we know that school districts must still stretch tight budgets for funding programs. The good news is that funding for the program that raises reading scores is out there, and Kids Read Now can help schools find it.

Here are some places to start!

Title I Funding

The federal government has been contributing Title I funding since 1965. The purpose of these grants is to help schools with large populations of low-income and disadvantaged students boost academic achievement. The U.S. Department of Education states that Title 1 provides “financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.” Assistance for reading programs is part of that deal, too. Title I money can be used for additional instruction in summer reading programs that “extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.” Kids Read Now also offers free webinars with our expert, Laura Bemus. It is an opportunity to ask your questions to an expert on the application process for Title I funding.

Read more about Title I.

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

Dollar General’s charitable wing sets aside grant money primarily to promote K-12 literacy. The foundation has five grant programs that support adult and family literacy, strong libraries, and reading programs for schools.

The foundation’s Youth Literacy Grant is an especially valuable resource for school districts seeking help from organizations, such as Kids Read Now, that aim to boost reading proficiency for struggling readers. The Youth Literacy Grant provides funding for the following initiatives:

Grow Your Giving

Kids Read Now works together with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to bring grant opportunities to school districts. The mission is to provide matching grant money to enhance existing Title I funding.

This grant opportunity is for school districts that set up the Kids Read Now program for three years and track spring and fall reading scores, measuring the growth over time for program analysis. The grant then covers fifty percent of the first program year, and with additional funds for years two and three, the grant eventually covers one full year out of the three of the program.

By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | January 31, 2017

Reading is considered the most important skill people acquire. It’s the foundation for further learning. From Kindergarten through third grade, children learn to read, and from grade four onward, they read to learn. If kids don’t master reading by third grade, they eventually run into some serious limitations and challenges in life. There are, however, ways to lay the groundwork for educating readers and make reading part of life-long learning.

Drill the Alphabet

Not fully understanding the letters of the alphabet and their relationship to sounds can deeply hinder reading proficiency. Students need clear instruction for how to identify, name, and write letters. They need to practice letter-sound relationships and review those relationships as they learn new ones. Activities like singing alphabet songs and viewing and reciting rhymes help them acquire alphabetic knowledge. Students have to be immersed in the world of the alphabet so that they can use letters in as many activities as possible.

Focus on Phonemic Awareness

Students need to be aware of the sounds of words and syllables in our alphabet-based language. The lack of this awareness trips up a majority of students who become non-proficient readers. To unlock the meaning in words, students need to know the sounds in those words and letters. Activities should focus on learning specific sounds, such as b in bump, and have students practice these sounds in as many words as possible. Students can then begin identifying and saying all the sounds in a word. From there, further strategies help students build on what they keep practicing and learning.

[bctt tweet=”From Kindergarten to 3rd grade, children learn to read. From grade four onward, they read to learn.”]

Boost Their Vocabulary

Gaining a large vocabulary is essential for unlocking meaning in written text. A limited vocabulary makes it difficult for readers to make all the connections among words, phrases, and sentences. Introducing and teaching new vocabulary in reading materials should be an ongoing strategy. Use word-learning strategies such as finding meaning from context, locating word parts to decode longer words, and searching the old standby: a print or online dictionary.

Read to Them

One of the best ways to teach something is to show it in action. Share stories and informational writing, and get students to think about the ideas and visualize what they hear. This is definitely something parents can do at home and teachers can do in classrooms. Reading to kids reinforces that reading is part of life, and it exposes kids to language and vocabulary that they might not experience in normal conversation.

Make Sure That They Read

Reading is a skill, and it takes practice to become proficient. Setting aside daily reading time at home or in the classroom is a good start. It’s important to have students read and reread stories and then gradually introduce them to more challenging texts. Use comprehension strategies that get them to ask and answer questions about the reading, visualize what’s happening, and make connections to what they’ve read. Also let students be responsible for choosing their own reading—they are likely to read more if they find something that interests them.

One of the best ways to teach something is to show it in action.

Let Them See You Read

This is especially important for parents. Children learn much by what they see happening around them. When they see adults reading regularly, they see that it’s what people should be doing. Modeling reading at home, or anywhere, increases the chances of a child becoming a proficient reader. After all, it may be difficult to sell the importance of reading if children don’t see others doing it, too.

Visit a Library, or a Bookstore

Show students the places in which they will see a vast amount of reading material and the nearly endless possibilities of what they can discover. Arrange a field trip so that students see what these places offer and how they can satisfy the reading interests of nearly everyone. Chances are, most libraries and bookstores have plenty of people browsing the aisles and inspecting books. This also shows students that people in general believe that reading is important.

By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | January 2, 2017

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

That simple proverb may seem wearied and overused, but at its heart, it holds some truth: People need balance in life, especially balance between their imaginations and their intellect. But work and play don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Play and learning can be combined. In fact, many experts, from educators to psychologists, believe play is learning. They’ve discovered that it develops a host of cognitive and emotional foundations essential for later life. Even Plato knew this more than 2,300 years ago:

“Our children from their earliest years must take part in all the more lawful forms of play, for if they are not surrounded with such an atmosphere they can never grow up to be well conducted and virtuous citizens.”

Information Time

Current trends push kids to learn more and learn early, with approaches to teaching that are usually reserved for higher grade levels. The hopeful result is that the more one learns early on, the better. Some experts believe it doesn’t quite have the effect intended. They believe the push for absorbing a great deal of knowledge at a young age can have negative effects on development. They figure that students who just sit and consume information for the sake of gaining more information lack the opportunity for real-world engagement and critical thinking. Teacher-directed instruction and mass testing have pushed kids to be information consumers who learn facts, figures, and historical narratives with the basic goals of getting a good grade or passing a test.


Play is often viewed as that—just play, or recreational activities with no goal other than to have fun. Some people, however, insist it is much more. Those who encourage play, and play as learning, say kids need to be free to discover and imagine. Play involves exploration, experimentation, and cognitive engagement. All perform a role in academic success and success in career paths, and they’re important for leadership and innovative thinking. Education experts have developed a comprehensive list of how different forms of play lead to serious intellectual, physical, and emotional benefits. With a focus on activities such as games, puzzles, drawing, and writing, play helps students learn no matter where they are. Playing board games in particular encourages critical and strategic thinking and opens the door for teamwork experiences.

[bctt tweet=”Play involves exploration, experimentation, and cognitive engagement.”]

Play helps children engage the world around them, and engaging it is the first step to understanding it. Play-to-learn advocates promote play as an essential component of learning that goes hand-in-hand with traditional academic instruction. There’s even a formal gathering for like-minded people. The Cincinnati Museum Center hosts a Learning Through Play Conference for educators and parents. Separate events are curated for each group.

By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | September 20, 2016

One of the strongest desires that parents of young children have is the ability to communicate with them. While they know a howling baby is uncomfortable in some way, they do not know why. Years are spent modeling speech to toddlers, saying words and pointing at objects to cement a visual link to the concept they are trying to teach. Toddlers, for their part, are incredibly amusing as they learn this skill. Every adult male becomes “Daddy”. Sometimes the family pet becomes “Daddy” as well. But they learn this skill through verbal demonstration and visual connection.

The writer is an explorer. Every step is an advance into a new land.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Teaching a child to read is a similar process. We sit a child on our lap, or lay them down at night, and read them a story. If they can see the words, their curiosity gets the better of them and they start asking questions. They learn to read in the same way they learn to speak; repeating what the adults say until they connect the word and the concept it conveys. The visual components to reading are letters and words. Teaching students at a young age to write improves their reading skills by helping them recognize the connection between the letters they see and the sounds the letter make.

Parents are instrumental in helping children link writing to reading and speaking at a young age. Like with speaking, they do not understand writing letters. They want to mimic what they are seeing on the page. This is how young learners start to write, known as emergent writing. Emergent writing is the way many younger students start writing. They start with scribbles, and over time hone those random slashes into letters. As they learn their letter forms, they are able to turn them into words. This adds another tool in their communication arsenal, linking the spoken and written word together. Adults help by encouraging this scribbling and guiding into letters. As young writers move from scribbling to writing poorly to writing well, they begin to move into other writing skills that are related to reading, like reading left to right and top to bottom. Understanding how punctuation affects what is read creeps into their writing.

Why start at such a young age? Early aptitude in writing is an indicator of a child’s reading ability. Up to middle school, children are sponges of information. They learn the things parents and teachers reinforce, like positive habits and important life skills. It is during this time frame that teaching them new skills are most effective. Helping them develop an aptitude for writing is a tool that will help them through their entire life, from taking notes in school to writing resumes and cover letters for jobs. It is important to keep them interested and enjoying writing while not forcing it. Pushed too hard, and they will get burnt out and frustrated. Writing becomes a chore, starting a bad relationship with writing and letters. This could start a bad relationship with reading as well, further hindering future prospects.

Teaching students at a young age to write improves their reading skills by helping them recognize the connection between the letters they see and the sounds the letter make.

Everything we can do as educators to build a strong relationship with the written word is important for a child’s future development. Giving students the tools to write the words they are reading is a major step to improving their literacy. Building their confidence in these abilities at a young age starts them on the path of being lifelong readers and learners. Kids Read Now knows the importance of building literacy at a young age. Reading to younger children supports their desire to learn to read and write, creating better students.

By KRN Admin | Categories Educators | August 16, 2016

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. ” -Frederick Douglass

Literacy is a strong component when it comes to predicting the success of students. The earlier we build that foundation, the better off the student will be in the long run. Studies show that the end of third grade and beginning of fourth grade is a crucial time in a scholastic career. Children who are not proficient at reading by this point are four times as likely to drop out of school than their better-read peers. That is only if students compared exist on the same income level. Add the challenges of being from a low-income home, and those same students are thirteen times more likely to drop out. Students that drop out are much less liable to be employed and far more liable to end up using government resources like low-income housing, food stamps, and possibly correctional facilities.

For those who are at the lowest income levels, the challenges in school can be the least of their concerns. Their attendance can be inconsistent because of family needs or transportation issues. They are often undernourished, causing them to be distracted when they need to focus on lessons. Students at the lowest income levels may not be able to afford even the basics like pens, paper, or shoes. And families of poor students may not be able to offer educational support like helping with homework or attending school activities. This can be due to their work schedule or a lack of education themselves. Their lack of education perpetuates a cycle that keeps these families on the low end of the social and economic scale. At this end, the drop towards criminal activities is not too far.

“For those who are at the lowest income levels, the challenges in school can be the least of their concerns.”

There are strong ties between incarceration and having a poor education. Those relationships start with students not having a high school diploma, or equivalent, having a much more difficult time finding a job. High school graduates are almost twice as likely to find a job than a student that has dropped out. People who cannot read at an 8th-grade level have a more difficult time reading newspapers (most written at a 9th-grade level) to find jobs or even applying for jobs. When the option for growth become limited, many dropouts will turn to crime. Studies estimate that up to two in three inmates read at the lowest levels or are functionally illiterate. Recidivism is much higher for those who have not improved their reading as opposed to those that have. Seventy percent of poor readers will end up back in jail, as opposed to sixteen percent that read well.

We have the opportunity to help break this cycle by focusing on literacy early. Kids Read Now provides tools to help students embrace becoming better readers by giving them the books they want to read in the critical kindergarten through third-grade years. Parents are encouraged to participate by helping them read the books, answer the questions, and obtain the next book for their child. Through the efforts of the entire community, we can build readers at a young age that will become learners and leaders in the future.