SundayMorningReads

Posted on 30 October 2011 Sunday


I’ve found a few great shares on the Internet!

  •  LobsterBoy blog is introducing librarians to the new book  Into the Trap by Craig Moodie by offering them the chance to win four live lobsters delivered fresh to your home on New Year’s Eve! Of course I’m ruining my chance of winning this great meal by sharing, but anything for my readers!
  • This morning, Debbie Reese shared information about Inhabit Media, an Inuit owned publishing company which publishes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. They also publish a couple of magazines!
  • Google Reader is changing. At first, I was afraid it was going to disappear, but if I’m reading correctly it will simply lose networking features which are duplicated on Google+. This is fine with me because I don’t tend to use the networking features on Reader. I simply use it as an aggregator. Read more about the changes here.

Each year, my school district requires everyone to state and develop two professional goals. This helps me focus what I’m doing and not get quite so overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. One of my goals this year is to find ways to use the media center/library to improve reading. This is a bit of a leap from the traditional role of libraries where we simply seek to build a lifelong love of learning. I think that being in a schools where so many students are reading 2 or more years below grade average, it would be irresponsible not to step up to do more to teach reading.

Of course I provide some professional literature for teachers and encourage them to bring classes to get books. I teach library skills, introduce new books and even buy hi/low materials, but there has to be more. I’ve read about elementary librarians who read aloud books that demonstrated various consonant/vowel patterns, but that’s elementary. I’d like to find what else I can do.

One thing I am doing is putting reading levels on books. In my book talks I plan to review how to select books and talk about reading levels.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4 Battle of the Labyrinth   3.3  (grade level)

The First Part Last  4.6

Ghetto cowboy 4.0

Bronxwood 4.0

Guantanamo Boy 7.0

I am j  4.9

Calebs war 4.0

Dreams of significant girls 4.0

Iron knight 5.0

Saint Louis Armstrong beach  4.1

Monster   5.1

This thing called the future 4.1

Camo girl 3.7

Locomotion 4.7

Marcelo 4.7

He forgot to say goodbye 3.3

American born Chinese 3.3

Crank 4.3

Shine coconut moon 5.0

Stringz 4.9

What I’m finding is that very few YA books are written above the 5th grade reading level.

To me, this is a bigger concern than the violence many are addressing in YA books. How are we preparing students for college materials or work place readings above this level? If books are written at these low levels of vocabulary you have wonder about the complexity of the themes and situations, particularly with growing movements to incorporate more YA into the curriculum rather than ‘classics’.

I did find TeacherLibrarian online to provide material on this topic. I took particular note of the article “Supporting Literacy Needs of African American Transitional Readers” because my school is 95% African American. A transitional reader is one who is advancing from early readers to reading independently, typically occurring somewhere between second and fifth grade. This assumes the students have developed decoding skills necessary to derive meaning on their own. It assumes phonics skills have been taught, vision deficiencies have been addressed and there has been adequate and supportive practice for the readers.

Research shows, however, that as transitional readers make this daunting move from picture books and early readers to more difficult texts, many of them often begin to read less frequently and to develop decreasing attitudes toward reading as a pastime and as a school-related activity (Lempke, 2008; McKenna, Kear, & Ellsworth, 1995; Scholastic 2008). This is particularly true for African American children whose reading scores are consistently lower than those of white children.  In 2007, on the National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) reading skills test, white children scored an average of 231 points, while African American children scored only 203 points. Additionally, 54 percent of African American fourth grade students scored below basic in reading as compared to 22 percent of white students (NAEP, 2007).

Research suggests that reading motivation and achievement are increased when children are exposed to literature that offers them “personal stories, a view of their cultural surroundings, and insight on themselves” (Heflin & Barksdale-Ladd, 2001, p. 810). For African American children who are attempting to make the transition to independent, self-regulating texts, finding this type of literature can be challenging. Gangi (2008) found that “there is an ‘unbearable whiteness’ in literacy instruction in the United States” (p. 12). That is, in general, teachers tend to use resources in their literacy instruction that feature white children, rather than children of color. Hughes-Hassell, Barkley, & Koehler (2009) noted that only 16.9% of the transitional books (levels J-M) included in the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book List database (www.FountasandPinnellLeveledBooks.com), which is used by many schools across the country as the basis for literacy instruction, included African American children. Thus, while white children can easily find books that feature characters that look like them, assuring that as they transition from easy readers to chapter books they see themselves over and over in the books they read, the same is not true for African American children.

I would argue that this same case could be made for any low income student who does not find herself, her family or her surroundings in books, as well as any student of color who doesn’t find himself in the stories he reads.

Sometimes I wonder how we could have educated students for hundreds of years in this country and we’re still figuring out these things. These issues should be so obvious and the solutions should be so simple, yet we struggle to get appropriate books and services to students. I’ll keep struggling while I’m there, and keep trying to learn better ways.

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Posted in: Sunday Reads