Thursday, March 09, 2006

Literacy summit generates ideas

NORTH PORT -- Nancy Pike, director of the Sarasota County Library, opened the Literacy Summit Tuesday by placing a number on the face of literacy in America.

"There are over 40 million people in this country whose reading skills are not where they need to be in order to function in society," said Pike.

The Literacy Summit held at the Girl Scout Auditorium in Sarasota attracted about 100 concerned teachers, librarians, community activists and volunteers to discuss the need for programs to combat illiteracy.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, literacy is not defined by the ability to pass a standardized test, but rather the ability of individuals to use written information to function in society and to achieve goals.

"We must focus on the possibilities, not place and not rehash blame," said Pike.

According to the Department of Education on a federal test, considered a report card for the country, the reading performance of 17-year-olds has essentially been stagnant for 20 years.

"Whether you are talking about teen mothers, immigrants to this country, adult 'new-readers,' or the growing number of students needing extra assistance, we need to develop and support programs that eliminate illiteracy," said Pike.

Linda Crane, School Board Sarasota County Language Arts Program specialist, is passionate about the literacy needs of the children. She eagerly wanted to get to know each of the other agency's programs.

"That's what this summit is about," she said. "The good thing is that the after school programs, provided by the School Board, help to extend the total number of hours available to for kids that need help reading and writing, little kids -- big minds."

The summit focused on diverse individuals and organization representatives who shared their program and resource information. Most are aimed at reaching as many people as possible who have reading comprehension problems.

Area Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County Tony Torrence said the "greatest potential" for improving literacy is for a child's home environment to play a role.

He said teaching kids to love books is important only if parents learn to appreciate their potential and are invested in their children's lives.

"The (earlier) the intervention, the better," said Torrence.

Increasing the time spent engaging children and making it a habit to have reading material at home will help, he said.

Robyn Faucy, partnerships director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, was animated in her enthusiasm for Partnerships with Rotarians of District 6960, which extends as far south as Naples. The organization matches students with Rotarian volunteers, for one-to-one tutoring in reading comprehension.

"Literacy is not only an educational issue, it's a social issue," Faucy said. "It increases self-esteem and increases a person's ability to achieve their goals no matter what those goals may be. Reading is about life's possibilities."

Event on 2nd March

Form a good habit - Read with your kids.

What started as a one-day annual event in 1998 has become an initiative to celebrate the joy of reading for children every day. The single day was March 2, birthday of children's author Dr. Seuss. Millions of people observed the Read Across America event last week. It was again coordinated by the National Education Association and its 2.7 million educator members.

So now that the 102nd birthday of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel -- author of "The Cat in the Hat," "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" -- has come and gone, how do we keep the initiative going all year long, as Read Across America suggests?

You can read at home with your children, snuggling up together on the living-room couch with books from your personal collection or ones borrowed from the local library. Or you can participate in one of many reading programs and other events at local bookstores or public libraries. Consider these:

• Tonight, Hamilton East Public Library keeps the Dr. Seuss theme going by featuring a "Cat in the Hat" program at 7 p.m. at its Noblesville branch, 1 Library Plaza.

• Cool Creek Nature Center in Westfield will hold a Pajama Rama story time event at 7 p.m. Friday for families with children between the ages of 1 and 7. It's located at 2000 E. 151st St.

• Miss Spider Storytime is 10 a.m. today and Saturday at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Noblesville, geared to preschoolers age 3-6. There's another storytime for children at 10 a.m. Friday. The store is located at 17090 Mercantile Blvd.

• Family story time is 7 p.m. Fridays at Barnes & Noble at 14709 U.S. 31 in Westfield. Mother Goose Story Time is 10 a.m. on Wednesdays at the same bookstore.

• The Wild has story time at 10:30 a.m. each Tuesday in downtown Noblesville at 92 S. Ninth St.
The Wild is the newest bookstore to arrive in Noblesville. It opened in October and has been so successful that it is about to move to a new, more visible location with more space for special events. It will celebrate its grand opening April 1 in the former location of Hey Little Diddle at 884 Logan St., also downtown.

In four months, the Wild has quickly become a Noblesville treasure, where kids can plop down on a tree-trunk chair and listen intently while adults read stories to them. Adding to the appeal are paper lanterns, stuffed animals, artwork and a roaming cat. What's not fun about that?

When children recognize that reading is fun, it becomes habit-forming and something they enjoy, especially when it's done in the midst of family members or other kids their age.

So keep the excitement in reading going. Your children and grandchildren will benefit from it their entire lives, and it will leave lasting impressions of important time spent with you.

Tips for Reading to Very Young Children

Tips for Reading to Very Young Children

Reading experts know that any amount of book experience is a positive thing. But as book has the potential for being a wonderful, exciting, thought-provoking, comfort-giving, engaging, happy thing. Here are a few tips for reading books to small children that might make the time more memorable for the child and for you.

Most important of all… read the book first, at least once, so you know when to be dramatic and when to be soft and when the big finish is coming.

Be sure to be animated… make animal sounds when there are animals, and vehicle sounds for vehicles. Make your voice a baby voice when it's called for. The children will appreciate it.
Tap the pages of the book with a finger to get the child's eyes where they should be. First the left page, then the right to get them into the order of reading.

Hold the book up and away from you so the child can see it. Move it slowly from side to side if there is more than one child. Don't assume that the child will want to sit on your lap - try sitting on the floor in front of the child first.

Interact with all children, especially the ones who are starting to wander. Ask questions like "do you see it?" or "where did the cat go?" or "what did the bear say?" You make a bear sound. Do you think he'll find it?

Don't be afraid to leave out a line or even a page if it's not working.

Some children think it's important if they turn the page… let them.

Some children like to hear the words "all done" or "the end" at the end of the book. You might want to close the book, hand it to them and ask "what was your favorite page?" or tell them, "you listen nicely to books."


Tips courtesy of W. Dale Clark Children's Librarian, Sally Shook

Here is a true story

Isabel* is a cute little 5 year old girl who loves books and is looking forward to starting Kindergarten this year. Her parents are from Mexico and do not speak much English. Neither of Isabel's parents were able to attend school in the rural Mexico town were they grew up. Isabel's mom does not even know how to read. I started giving Isabel's mother books for her to read to Isabel when I first started seeing her when she was 2 years old. Isabel's mom was concerned that she couldn't read these simple picture books. I explained that the important thing was for Isabel to develop a love of books -- her mom could look at the pictures with her and talk about the story even if she couldn't read all of the words. That first book that I gave to Isabel was the only book that her family owned except a bible. When Isabel came back to see me for her next appointment, she brought along the then "well-loved" book she and her mother had obviously read together many times. I gave her a new book at that visit and encouraged her mother to visit the local library. Isabel's mother had never heard of such a thing! A place where they loan you books? For free? Isabel's mother did visit the library, and continued to "read" to her daughter. Two years later, I learned she had joined an English as a Second Language class and was learning to read. I gave her a bilingual book so that she and Isabel could practice a few English words. When I saw Isabel recently for her pre-school physical, she and her mother greeted me with "Hello," "Thank you" and a few other English phrases they had picked up. Isabel's mother was so proud of her daughter and beamed encouragement as Isabel named three colors, counted to ten and said some of her ABC's in English. I gave her a new easy reader book in English, so Isabel could begin to learn to read by herself.

I truly believe that giving books to immigrant parents and helping them to establish the love of reading in their children will help these kids to enter school better prepared to learn.

Submitted by:Dr. Kris McVaeOneWorld Community Health Center

I'll tell you a story, it's about reading

I'll tell you a story, it's about reading


READING came naturally to me as a child. So naturally that the teacher, who normally read to the class when we were sewing lap bags or knitting mittens, decided to sew and knit herself and have me narrate Treasure Island for the term instead - hence I had no lap bag or cookery apron for secondary school!

I suppose my mother must have read to me. Certainly today the experts are alarmed because a recent survey shows that 38 per cent of parents do not read to their children every night. This, they say, will result in literacy problems in the future.
I say I "suppose" my mother read to me because I can't actually remember her doing so very much.

I do remember her doing something much more important. Telling me her own made-up stories involving regular characters and imaginative plots. These stories were all the better to me because they were unique. Everybody had Jemima Puddleduck. But Mama, Joe, Baba Lou and Pretty Polly were exclusive to me.

Perhaps it was because my mother is Irish. My grandmother behaved the same way. In a thatched cottage in the middle of bog Ireland, the only books in the house were prayer books, a result of modest income rather than a lack of culture. The Celtic habit of making stories up and passing stories down verbally was still alive and well in the 1960s.

Everyone loved reading and literature, but the most impressive thing was how they treasured words and remembered everything, my aunts and uncles able to recite long Irish poems that seemed to go on for hours.

Naturally, I followed suit with my own son. Yes, we had books for reading bedtime stories, but his preference was always for an off-the-cuff adventure story involving him and - usually - a Mash-type alien called Biba who landed in the back garden and was then shown round earth, and specifically Edinburgh, by the Young Master.

Fast forward 13 years and he's just scraped a pass in his English prelim.
While at his age I could discuss Shakespearean plays to a band playing, he's baffled. While I would write as much as they'd let me, he dries up after a few paragraphs. Yet he has a very broad vocabulary.

From this I deduce that reading to children and telling them stories is not the crucial factor it once was. Those now raising their own children will recall that as children themselves, reading was the major key to entertainment. Parents reading and telling them stories simply whetted their appetites and encouraged them to explore more books.

Now the competition's tougher. Why read with mother when you can watch with Mel Gibson or Matt Damon . . . or even the Disney channel, whenever you like? Why listen to her unique stories when you can set up your PlayStation and have a virtual, unique adventure?
Reading to children is still an excellent idea but parents shouldn't beat themselves up and think it's all their fault if reading skills are falling.

The worldwide electronics industries, satellite TV, the availability of computers and development of the web and downloading technology . . . all things that weren't a factor in bog Ireland and fill the adventure and entertainment gap. . . just might have something to do with it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

TV v/s Reading

When it comes to getting children to read, it is often parents versus the television.

Unfortunately, the TV usually comes out the winner. If parents want their children to put down the remote and pick up a book, they must find ways to outsmart the boob tube.

The Jakarta Post asked people for their thoughts on the issue.

Aulia Rachman, 25, is an event organizer with her own company in Kalibata, South Jakarta. She lives with her husband and son in Pasar Minggu, also in South Jakarta:

I love books, and I always spend a large percentage of my income on books, from novels to books on politics, management, philosophy and international relations.

For me, reading is enlightening and fun at the same time. Many times, when I read a very good book I feel liberated. You can't put a value on that feeling. I am addicted to reading. If I don't read every day I feel like a part of my life is missing.

A philosopher, Erasmus, if I'm not mistaken, said he would buy books before food. When I first heard this I thought it was silly, but now I fully understand what he meant.

Unfortunately, most Indonesians can't appreciate books because they have to struggle just to fill their stomachs. I can understand this. I mean, how can you read with an empty stomach. The economic situation here is killing the domestic book industry because fewer and fewer people are buying books. They prefer to watch TV, to forget about the difficulty of their lives for a few hours.

I just hope the economy will improve and people will start buying books again.

Nona W. Suharto, 44, is a freelance writer and a housewife. She lives in Kalisari, East Jakarta:
Reading is a habit for my family. My parents were quite strict about that. Me and my three siblings were not allowed to watch television. My parents didn't even buy a television until we were all in high school. It was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I remember my father saying he did not want to see us wasting our time in front of the boob tube.

He had a library and we were allowed to read his books. He was a journalist so he had an extensive collection. My mother was a teacher and although I rarely saw her reading, she supported my father's position on the TV. She encouraged us to read in her own way.
We often went to state publishing company Balai Pustaka, because one of my uncles worked there and he let us pick out any books we wanted.

I have tried to do the same with my son, but times have changed and it's much harder to do that now. He loves watching cartoons on TV and now he prefers working and playing on his computer. My husband hooked his computer up to the Internet so now he sits for hours surfing the Net.

Not buying a TV wasn't really an option because all the neighbors have them. If my son couldn't watch TV at home, he would just go and watch it at a neighbor's house.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

100 Ways For Parents to be Involved in Their Child's Education

100 Ways For Parents to be Involved in Their Child's Education

1. Give positive feedback and show appreciation for teachers and the principal.
2. Approach interactions with a positive attitude and an open mind.
3. Listen to others' viewpoints.
4. Share your child's strengths, talents, and interests with your child's teachers.
5. Share expectations and set goals together for your child.
6. Make appointments as needed to discuss your child's progress or concerns.
7. Attend parent-teacher conferences with specific questions you want to ask.
8. Indicate the best way to giver you information (phone, e-mail, notes, etc.).
9. Understand and reinforce school rules and expectations at home.
10. Participate in informal opportunities to talk with and to get to know school staff and educators.
11. Address concerns or questions honestly, openly, and early on.
12. Attend PTA or parent meetings regularly.
13. Read classroom and/or school newsletters.
14. Visit your school's web page.
15. Know school staff's extensions and office hours.
16. Read and know your school's handbook.
17. Request that information be available in all relevant languages.
18. Share your family's culture, values, and parenting practices with your child's school.
19. Share your perceptions with educators and school staff of how parents are treated.
20. Work with school staff and educators to revise and improve perceptions and school climate.
21. Meet your child's friends and get to know their parents.
22. Contact your school for information on family programs and resources.
23. Help establish a parent center at school and use its resources.
24. Help create a toy/book lending library and visit it regularly.
25. Assist in developing parent support programs/groups and attend them.
26. Attend workshops or seminars on various parenting topics.
27. Participate in parenting classes on child development, expectations, discipline, etc.
28. Attend parent fairs and other events especially for parents and families.
29. Start a parent book club to discuss current publications.
30. Help create and/or contribute to a school newsletter on parenting.
31. Assist in creating and/or offer your services to before- and after-school programs.
32. Build a child file with medical records, pictures, fingerprints, etc.
33. Make donations and/or offer to work at clothing drives or swaps, food co-ops, etc.
34. Ask teachers or counselors about how to talk with your children about tough topics.
35. Discuss your child's school day and homework daily.
36. Learn your child's strengths and weaknesses in different areas of school.
37. Provide a quite, well-lighted place with basic school supplies for studying/homework.
38. Help your children break down projects into smaller, more manageable steps.
39. Develop a consistent daily routine and time for studying and homework.
40. Provide encouragement and approval for effort and schoolwork.
41. Share your interests, hobbies, and talents with your children.
42. Provide children with books, magazines, and so forth, and develop a nighttime reading routine.
43. View selected TV programs together and then review and discuss them.
44. Make family trips to the library, zoo, museum, or park a fun learning experience.
45. Talk with your child's teacher on creating home learning games and activities.
46. Complete interactive homework assignments with your child.
47. Attend meetings on learning expectations, assessment, and grading procedures.
48. Help set goals and develop a personalized education plan for your child.
49. Participate in activities that help you understand school technology.
50. Help plan and attend family nights on improving study habits, doing homework, etc.
51. Help develop, visit, or offer services to your school's study/tutor center.
52. Participate in fairs and fests for math, science, history, and so forth.
53. Respond to school surveys on your interests, talents, and skills.
54. Let school staff know your availability to volunteer (days, times, and how often).
55. Supervise and coordinate evening and weekend volunteer activities at school.
56. Assist your child's teacher in the classroom or on field trips when you are able.
57. Work with school staff and teachers to develop volunteer activities you can do from home.
58. Assist school staff and educators in creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for parents.
59. Help provide child care and/or transportation for volunteering parents.
60. Help develop creative ways to use volunteers at school.
61. Actively help school staff recruit parents and community members as volunteers.
62. Attend training and orientation on how to be an effective volunteer.
63. Learn and uphold school discipline, confidentiality, and other policies as a volunteer.
64. Plan a regular time each week to talk with school staff and educators with whom you are working.
65. Help developed volunteer job descriptions and evaluations.
66. Participate in organizing and planning ways to recognize and appreciate volunteers.
67. Respond to school surveys/questionnaires on how effective volunteer programs are.
68. Help develop and distribute a volunteer directory to parents, school staff, and teachers.
69. Provide volunteer consulting services to school staff or educators in your area of expertise.
70. Learn of school and district policies and practices that affect children.
71. Voice your support or concerns on any issue that will affect your family.
72. Be involved in decisions on student placement and course and textbook selections.
73. Participate in meetings to determine special educational needs and services.
74. Attend workshops on problem solving, conflict resolution, public speaking, and so forth.
75. Serve on school advisory councils or committees on curriculum, discipline, and so forth.
76. Serve on a site-based school management team with teachers and the principal.
77. Encourage and support older children in serving in student leadership positions.
78. Help your school create a student's rights and responsibilities guide for families.
79. Attend PTA, school board, and/or town meetings and speak to issues of concern.
80. Learn representatives' backgrounds and participate in school board election.
81. Work with teachers and school administrators to develop a parent involvement policy.
82. Write, call, or travel to state capitals to support or oppose proposed legislation.
83. Participate in petition drives or letter-writing campaigns to Congress on legislation.
84. Give testimony at public hearings in support of or opposition to education legislation.
85. Vote in local, state, and federal elections for public officials who support education.
86. Help your school develop a directory of social and community services.
87. Find out information on community resources and organizations and use them.
88. Help develop and/or distribute a community newsletter to local agencies and businesses.
89. Help coordinate and participate in an event to raise money for a local charity.
90. Talk with employers about holding parent meetings or parenting workshops on-site.
91. Advocate for flexible work schedules and leave time to attend school functions.
92. Encourage employers and local businesses to make donations and support school programs.
93. Help organize and/or participate in community health fairs.
94. Help recruit community members (seniors, business people) to volunteer at school.
95. Become active in community groups such as YMCA and Boy and Girl Scouts.
96. Serve on local community advisory councils and committees.
97. Work with local authorities and public officials to sponsor community events.
98. Help organize and/or participate in a community "clean up" or "beautification" project.
99. Encourage and help facilitate your child's participation in community service.
100. Be a role model, be active in community service yourself or together with your child.

Source: National PTA (