August and September traditionally serve as the months for Meet the Teacher nights. Families file into school buildings to check out classrooms, admire bulletin boards, and inquire about policies and procedures. I am suggesting that parents make a detour on their way to classrooms this school year. Visit the school library. Yes, it’s true. School libraries often don’t receive many visitors on Meet the Teacher nights, and they need our support more than ever in 2021. Here are three ways that we can show our appreciation for school libraries and school librarians this upcoming school year.
Many school libraries operate with a certified professional and without a dedicated assistant or with an assistant and without a certified professional. Either way, those books don’t shelve themselves! An indicator of a healthy, happy library is high circulation numbers. Checking in books and getting them back on shelves can feel like an endless task, and most libraries welcome volunteers to assist with this work. Volunteering to shelve books is a great opportunity to see what kids are reading, interact with young readers, and unplug for an hour or two.
Since school libraries don’t have supply lists, they often run low on tissues, table wipes, and pencils. Ask what they need. Maybe the librarian organizes Birthday Books or Friends of the Library fundraising programs. With a cash donation, kids can select a book to insert a bookplate with their name. As a former school librarian, I can verify the joy kids experience when opening the inside front cover of a book to spy a friend’s name. It’s also likely that at some point your kids’ school will host a book fair. Some libraries rely entirely on book fair profits to acquire new materials. Debating whether to add the light-up pen or an eraser shaped like a smartphone to your stack? Go for it! Your shopping very likely helps fund new books for the library.
Despite the compelling evidence pointing to the correlation between strong school library programs and student achievement, we still see school library budgets and school librarian positions being cut nationwide. Is this happening in your community? Write an email or a letter to the School Board and Superintendent voicing your concerns. They need to hear from families about the positive outcomes associated with thriving school libraries. A school library can and should be the heart of the school. That’s not possible without the support of all stakeholders, including families.
Many parents won’t be able to volunteer time or donate resources, and that’s fine. Next time you’re in the building for a Meet the Teacher Night or another event, pop in the library. Meet the school librarian. A warm hello that says “I see you” is often more than enough.
As we head into the Labor Day holiday, we pause and look at the impact of the American worker. Appearing at the end of the 19th century, laborers have spent the first Monday in September enjoying a well-earned day of rest. Productivity has steadily increased since the Bureau of Labor Statistics first started measuring the data in the 1950’s. Manufacturing has been returning to the United States over the last few years, and minimum wages have been increasing around the country to help low-income workers earn a better salary. Add a reasonable 4.9% unemployment rate to the mix, and the job picture in the United States is a rosy one. Our highly skilled and well-educated labor force plays into those impressive statistics. Labor and literacy have a special bond, especially as our economy hums forward in the Digital Age.
The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker. -Helen Keller
Entering a workforce that increasingly uses data and technology can intimidate those with lower levels of literacy. Barriers workers have to scale to find a job start with reading the application. According to the Employment Policy Institute’s (EPI) 2010 data, over 27 million Americans do not have the reading skills needed to fill out an application. Computerized applications create another barrier to getting a job. Almost two-thirds of people at the two lowest levels of literacy are not familiar enough with a computer to input the necessary data.
The barriers are not just in the reading and comprehension of the application. The National Commission on Writing published a study titled “Writing: A Ticket to Work or a Ticket Out…”. Employers indicated that writing a weak resume or errors on an application was an instant rejection for many jobs. The study suggested that the stable, salaried jobs went to workers that proved they could read and write well. Hourly jobs required less reading and writing and went to lower-skilled employees. They are also much less stable. The unemployment rate for those with lower reading skills can be twice as high as those who can read.
When a job does open up for someone with below average literacy, they begin to experience other setbacks. They earn weekly than their better-educated peers. According to the 2002 “National Center for Education Statistics: Adult Literacy in America” report, workers at the lowest levels of literacy make $110 less per week than even average readers, and up to $450 less per week than the highest performing readers. They are employed less during the year, working only nineteen weeks.
The low wages reflect their inability to scale the corporate ladder to better paying managerial jobs. Jobs that require more reading, writing, and reporting than a minimum wage, minimum skill job. With the push for a higher minimum wage, employers will hire the candidates with the highest skills, driving some of those jobs further out of reach. Many occupations we consider to be low skilled require the ability to work a computer or read data. We have to prepare a workforce for the challenges of the increasingly knowledge-based economy.
The unemployment rate for those with lower reading skills can be twice as high as those who can read.
Kids Read Now has been celebrating the labor our students put in this summer to improve their reading skills. Investments we are making in their education now will pay off for them while they are in school. Those same advantages will continue when they leave it to go into the workplace. Students that build their reading skills are laying the foundations to improve their future. Spend a little time on Labor Day relaxing with friends and family after all the work you have done for the year, put aside some time start that book you have wanted to read. You might find a child wants to sit down and read with you.
Rote teaching is bad. Experimentation is good.
Getting children to learn more, quicker, and at a younger age, has been a top priority among Parents and Policy Makers. This is great. However, the trouble is that a majority of people think that most learning is done in a school setting. Parents should then act like teachers while teachers and policy makers need to justify their investment in early childhood education. Creativity, playtime and imagination corners get replaced by standardized testing and rote teaching. Learning at home then becomes focused lessons to produce particular kinds of knowledge. But what about play as a learning tool? A way for children to make new discoveries through experimentation and observation?
We don’t want to produce a bunch of students that just know how to imitate but also know how to innovate.
Children have been learning and developing for thousands of years, before the invention of schools. Observation is one of the key components to a child’s ability to learn and think critically. “Experimental studies show that even the youngest children are naturally driven to imitate.” Multiple studies have been done where adults will manipulate a particular item while young children observe. Whether it be turning a light on in a box or performing various combinations on a toy to make music. Without any explicit instruction, the young children observed and created solutions to a problem. They did not just copy mindlessly but carefully observed which motions worked to make something operate. This is “active learning”. When kids play with new toys they act like scientists performing experiments. They want to know what will give them the best results and teach them about how the world works.
Teaching has its benefits, but explicit instruction can also be limiting. When a child recognizes he or she is being taught, they are more likely just to reproduce what has been shown instead of creating something new. The kind of teaching that comes with schools and parenting these days pushes children more towards imitation and away from innovation. This information age demands creativity, but we are limiting the creative outlets for children. We need to let them learn as much as we need to teach them.
“To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition.” – Albert Einstein
It’s important for kids to think and wonder. Which is why our copyrighted discovery sheets inside each book are designed to elicit comments, ideas, and exploration. To make books come alive as learning tools. Even before kids can read, they learn about physics, motion, sequencing, processes, emotions, storylines, and different behaviors. A child’s naturally evolved ability to learn is more suited to creatively solving a problem than the teaching methods over the last two centuries. We want to encourage learning, innovation, and creativity. By allowing them to come to their conclusions, they recognize that there can be more than one way to problem solve or even think.
Kids Read Now, and elementary reading programs are designed to get parents involved in a child’s learning while letting kids observe and learn on their own. We want to produce students that know more than how to imitate. We want them to discover how to innovate. The Discovery Sheets are guides for exploration, and there is no one right answer. Rote teaching has its place, but it does not teach everything. We need to stop limiting creative outlets for children and start letting them explore their minds. Let young children get into everything and let them actively learn.
Kids are constantly being told to read more, but what can we do to help them be more enthusiastic about it? We want kids to be able to pick up a book on their own and have it be enjoyable instead of feeling like a chore. These young learners need to have access to a wide variety of books; books that entice them and attract them to reading. Self-selected reading provides daily opportunities to practice new skills and understandings across tasks, texts, and environments. This creates an environment favorable to reading and making kids eager to participate.
“Self-selected reading provides daily opportunities to practice new skills and understandings across tasks, texts, and environments.”
Self-selected reading includes: teacher read aloud, mini-lessons, students choose and read independently, student-teacher conferences about reading and sharing. The books available, whether at home or in the classroom, are the tools to make self-selected reading happen. They should support varying interests, reading levels and formats. These can include printed books, e-books, and text-to-speech. Each of these categories can house multiple types of books.
Print books can include wordless books, picture books, graphic novels, tactile books, object books, comic books and pop-up books. Whatever form the book comes it should be accessible to the reader. That may mean easy to turn pages, pictures above the words or braille. Comic books can be created to document learning experiences and help students process them. This engages the students through thinking, creating and writing. Involving them in the book making process, enriching reading, writing and thinking. Online books or e-books offer another way to involve the reader. Pictures and sounds help create the story and immerse the kids. They can either read the book themselves or have it read to them.
“Kids Read Now, a self-selected reading program, provides the tools to create active and engaged readers.”
Self-selected reading also engages the students in reflecting on what they have read. It helps them make connections to themselves and actively ask questions to process what they are reading. This turns reading into a social activity as well as a solo endeavor. Kids Read Now! is dedicated to making reading accessible to as many students as possible and self-selected reading is one way to do that. These practices encourage students to pick up a book on their own outside of the classroom. It provides the skills necessary to actively process what has been read and learn from the material. During the summer months, kids can be hard pressed to pick up a book. Kids Read Now and other self-selected reading programs provide the tools to create active and engaged readers. The summer slide may become a thing of the past.
There has been a lot of debate lately about the importance of physical education in school curriculums. Many schools have cut PE funding or the programs have taken a back seat to “teaching the test”. The focus on raising standardized test scores has negatively affected other areas of education. Important ones. Such as Physical Education which is essential to a child’s development physically and mentally.
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children and adolescents. If you’ve watched professional football in the last 5 years you may have noticed a campaign called Play 60. This campaign encourages kids to get out and play for at least 60 minutes a day; using popular NFL players and kids of all ages. Besides the fact that this play or physical activity helps reduce obesity and obesity-related issues in students it helps them focus, learn and be attentive during stationary lessons. The more active, the better the academic performance.
“Exercise directly affects the development and cognitive ability of the brain.”
Studies from the CDC, Columbia University, the New York City Health Department and Department of Education and the Universities of West Virginia, Illinois and California have all published research that supports this need for physical education in school systems. Exercise directly affects the development and cognitive ability of the brain. It positively impacts a child’s ability to learn, retain and think at a higher level. According to Active Living Research, “In some cases, more time in physical education leads to improved grades and standardized test scores.”
Besides the improved grades and brain function physical activity cultivates it also helps with a sense of social connectedness and drop-out rates. At risk students are more likely to attend class when interscholastic sports are offered. Every student, regardless of financial situation, should have access to quality education and the tools to succeed outside of the classroom. Physical education can tie all of these issues together.
“Every student, regardless of financial situation, should have access to quality education and the tools to succeed outside of the classroom.”
During the summer months as we encourage our kids to go outside and play, swim and get dirty, we should encourage reading as well. They are exercising their bodies which helps their brain so why not support both. Kids Read Now! is like the Play 60 campaign. Both are working towards a common goal to help develop and positively influence children and adolescents. We want to give them every opportunity to succeed. Physical activity helps create eager-to-learn kids and Kids Read Now is providing the tools necessary for that success. Who knows, maybe they will begin to practice both on their own.