Try This Free Web-Based Summer Reading Resource

uBoost has partnered with Weekly Reader and is providing members free access to Weekly Reader online editions and quizzes as well as a host of fun, educational games in a variety of subject areas. To maintain engagement, uBoost awards points based on students' performance which can be redeemed for thousands of relevant rewards.

The rewards catalog includes popular electronic merchandise, online "My Room" customization tools and the opportunity to open a college savings account with a free $5 deposit (no strings attached). uBoost offers students the opportunity to earn based on their intellectual achievements and use their earnings to "give back" by donating to causes that are important to them like caring for orphaned animals, conservationism and contributions towards ending world hunger.

uBoost is defining a new space for learning - just in time for summer. The innovative combination appeals to students in a variety of ways. Learning can take place anywhere (with Internet connectivity) and any time. The ability to customize their virtual room promotes creativity, safe self-expression, and ownership. The ability to earn points for performance encourages academic achievement while empowering students with "purchasing power" (and all the economic lessons that come along with it). Students strive to excel to "beat" their (or others') high scores. Not to mention, the engaging, multi-modal games hook students and make learning fun.

If students are engaged, they will learn. So, it's a great resource to maintain and build reading skills over the summer. Parents, teachers, and students can register for a free account (through August 2008) PLUS receive 250 points at

Kids: Read 10 Books This Summer Get 10 Bucks

Commerce Bank is rewarding kids for keeping their reading levels sharp this summer through its annual Summer Reading Program.

Commerce Bank's Summer Reading Program encourages young people to read and additionally provides a goal for them to learn the importance of saving and money. Commerce contributes $10 into a new or existing young savers account for each child who reads 10 books throughout the summer.

A longtime education proponent, Commerce Bank hopes its Summer Reading Program will help children keep their reading skills sharp and their boredom level low during the summer. According to educators, summer reading is critical in continuing good academic performance and advancing literacy skills. Studies show that children who read several books throughout the summer maintain or surpass the reading skills they achieved during the previous school year.

The Summer Reading Program runs May 5 through September 30, 2008. For more information, visit us online at . Visit the nearest Commerce Bank store for a program brochure or call 888-751-9000.

Summer Reading Incentive Program Inspires Students to Read this Summer

The Read to Succeed Summer Program is being launched today to incentivize elementary-school students to read this summer, earning $1,000 accounts in the CollegeBoundfund. The Program is conducted by Read to Succeed, Inc., a Rhode Island 501 (c) 3 nonprofit corporation founded this year.

For 2008, the Read to Succeed Summer Program is being offered to the 59 students who are about to complete the third grade at CVS Highlander Charter School, a public school; Bishop McVinney School, a Catholic school run by the Providence Diocese; and Community Preparatory School, an independent school. All are located in South Providence, serving primarily low-income, minority families.

The program requirement is that each student read six books and pass a computer-administered, 10-question, multiple-choice test on each book before the first school day of the 2008-09 academic year. Students who satisfy these requirements will have $1,000 deposited in their name with the CollegeBoundfund, Rhode Island's tax-advantaged college savings program

Read to Succeed, Inc. plans to continue the program, offering it to this summer's group for the next five summers. This will enable them to earn $6,000 over the course of the program. The deposits will appreciate free of federal and state tax. The program will provide the books to the students at no charge. Additional classes will be added in coming years as funds permit.

"While no one can guarantee the growth or decline of investments, experience indicates that the $6,000 deposited over six years, appreciating tax-free for a minimum of eight years, should grow to $10,000 - $12,000 by the time the students withdraw their savings," said Barbara Papitto, Read to Succeed, Inc. president.

"Educators agree that summer reading is essential to academic success," said Robert J. Shapiro, superintendent emeritus, Warwick (R.I.) Public Schools, and a consultant to the program. "Students who read during the summer begin the new year with a distinct advantage over those who do not. Students who fail to read during the summer tend to lose ground, beginning the school year less advanced academically than they were at the end of the previous school year."

Perfection Learning to Add Lexile Measures to More Than 1,200 Books

Perfection Learning is licensing the Lexile Analyzer to provide Lexile measures for more than 1,200 of its titles. The publisher of K-12 student and teacher materials will offer Lexile measures for its extensive list of fiction and non-fiction books, such as its line of high-interest/low-reading-level books for reluctant readers and science and social studies content-area titles.

Developed by MetaMetrics, The Lexile Framework for Reading provides a common, developmental scale for matching reader ability and text difficulty. Lexile measures enable educators, parents and students to select targeted materials that can improve reading skills and to monitor reading growth across the curriculum, in the library and at home. Recognized as the most widely adopted reading measure, Lexile measures are part of reading and testing programs in the classroom and at the district and state levels. More than 100,000 books, 80 million articles and 60,000 Web sites have Lexile measures, and all major standardized tests can report student reading scores as Lexile measures.

Licensing the Lexile Analyzer allows Perfection Learning to analyze text and generate Lexile measures for its fiction and non-fiction books. Following certification by MetaMetrics, Perfection Learning will publish Lexile measures for its titles in its print and online catalogs.

Perfection Learning joins more than 450 trade and textbook publishers who offer Lexile measures for their materials.

The new titles with Lexile measures from Perfection Learning will be added to the Lexile Book Database. All of the books in the Lexile Book Database are now searchable using MetaMetrics' "Find a Book" Web site. Young readers and parents can use this free Web site to quickly and easily select books that match their interests -- or school assignments -- and reading abilities. By simply visiting on a computer at home or at the library, entering a Lexile measure and picking a favorite subject, users can view and print a custom "bookbag" of titles.

Fathers Have Important Role in Children's Literacy

All too often, childhood memories surrounding nursery rhymes and picture books revolve around mothers. But fathers are their children's first teachers as well. The children - and the entire family - benefit from dad's involvement in their education.

Sharon Darling, president & founder of the National Center for Family Literacy, said children look to both parents as role models. If they don't see parents reading for pleasure and for purpose, then they are less likely to view reading as a pleasurable experience. In addition, if they want to spend time with their dad and he doesn't feel comfortable as a teacher or reading them stories, then either they spend less time with dad or they don't read as often.

NCFL, which has trained more than 1 million educators and volunteers across the United States, has recommendations on reading and other literacy activities that don't have to be expensive or time-consuming. They can be built into your everyday routine.

"Spending time together and learning as a family can be a simple, inexpensive and easy activity. It just requires a little time, imagination and creativity," said Darling. "The rewards are long-lasting for the family and have a long-term impact on the child's academic success.

"When we conduct workshops for parents, they consistently say the sessions reminded them of the importance of family time. Too often, parents are unable to spend joint time with their children but appreciate how special it is to be together as a family."

As Father's Day approaches, NCFL offers the following tips for fathers and families on how to teach their child by using the world around them and maximize time spent reading together:

• Teach math skills by letting your child count the money to pay at the store;

• Ask children to find the letters of their name use signs along the street and on buildings;

• Increase oral language skills by sharing stories of your childhood;

• Make science come alive at home by checking out science experiment books from the library and then trying simple experiments at home. For example, grow a vegetable with your child, chart the growth and talk about it;

• Tie reading into an outing. If you're going to a museum, bring home a book about dinosaurs, so they see reading as an experience; and

• Use certain techniques for reading that have been proven to increase effectiveness in reading time, including making sound effects to capture their attention and change your voice when different characters speak. You should also talk about the story to reinforce comprehension and memory skills, and read it again because repetition helps children recognize and remember words.

Many of these recommendations are an outgrowth of a program created through a partnership with McDonald's and NCFL called Family Mealtime Literacy Nights. Participating families come to the restaurant one night a week for five weeks for a meal and literacy program. Since October 2006, there have been 45 five-week programs in Southern California. An estimated 675 families have benefitted from the program thus far.

"The program also demonstrates that parents can and should learn how to have important conversations around the dinner table - educational conversations that also strengthen family bonds," Darling said.

After one year of programming, results showed that nearly 90 percent of families are attending the entire five week program and are asking to continue with their studies; parents report using literacy strategies in their home and rely on the materials developed for the program to help their families increase literacy skills; and involvement of fathers in their children's literacy and education development is increasing.

The National Center for Family Literacy, the worldwide leader in family literacy, has raised more than $115 million for literacy efforts since its founding in 1989. More than 1 million families have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL's work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers. For more information, contact 1-877-FAMLIT-1 or visit

Barnes & Noble's 12th Annual Summer Reading Program For Children

Barnes & Noble announced that its 2008 Summer Reading program features Andrew Clements, author of the bestselling children's book Frindle. At the heart of Frindle, and Clements' other wise and funny school stories including No Talking, The Landry News, and Lunch Money, is the belief in the power of words. This summer, Andrew Clements is helping Barnes & Noble foster an appreciation for the written word, taking reading out of the classroom while giving students the chance to earn a free book. Barnes & Noble is expecting to exceed the more than 322,000 free books it gave away last year.

Andrew Clements made a Barnes & Noble in-store appearance on May 14 in Framingham, Massachusetts, and will be making in-store appearances July 19 in Augusta, Maine and September 18 in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Clements will also be participating in a discussion of children's literacy in Barnes &'s online Book Clubs ( this summer. The discussion, part of the Family Room Book Club, begins June 2, and will feature guest appearances from several children's book authors.

Barnes & Noble stores will distribute "Summer Reading with Andrew Clements" activity kits and journals to educators nationwide, each containing four student activities and a reading journal. Parents can pick up activity kits and journals at their local Barnes & Noble store or online at

Children who take part in the program read any eight books of their own choosing, list them, and record their favorite parts of the book in their "Summer Reading with Andrew Clements" journal. They then can bring their completed journal to any Barnes & Noble to receive a coupon for a free book from a list of bestselling titles. The completed form also serves as an entry form to win a free autographed copy of an Andrew Clements book.

May is Get Caught Reading Month

Why doesn't anyone read anymore? Is it because modern Americans work too much and rest too little? Is it because of our multiple entertainment outlets including television, the Internet and movies available on the big screen and right from the comfort of our own homes? An Associated Press (AP) - Ipsos Poll released in August of 2007 stated that one in four American adults neglected to read even one book in the preceding year! Of those readers polled, women and the senior citizens were the most ardent readers, reading religious books and popular fiction more than anything else.

May is "Get Caught Reading Month" as sponsored by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Get Caught Reading is a campaign focused on reminding people of all ages how much fun reading can be. Research indicates that children's early language experience actually stimulates a child's brain to grow. Furthermore, reading gives these children who are read to a huge advantage when they start school. Reading develops the imaginative mind of all people, young and old, as they are whisked off to far away places or taken back in time through wonderfully written stories.

African American and Latino populations tend to have child reading scores lower than those held by their Anglo and Asian counterparts in school. Therefore, reading initiatives are vital, not only to instilling a love of reading in children during their formative years but in educating parents on what they can do to form their children's budding minds. Make time to read in May, for who knows who you might inspire!


Glaucoma patients with poor health literacy may have greater disease progression

Glaucoma patients in urban areas who have poor health literacy appear to miss more appointments and to have worse disease understanding and greater disease progression than patients with adequate health literacy, according to a report in the May issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Health literacy, as a discrete form of literacy, is increasingly important in health care," according to background information in the article. "The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines health literacy as 'the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions'."

Mark S. Juzych, M.D., M.H.S.A., of the Kresge Eye Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit, and colleagues used a standardized test to determine the health literacy of 204 English-speaking patients treated for glaucoma for at least one year. Patients' demographic information and glaucoma understanding were assessed through an oral questionnaire.

Of the 204 glaucoma patients, half were categorized as having poor health literacy and the other half were categorized as having adequate health literacy. "Being of white race, having an education of some college or more and having a household income of $20,000 or greater was associated with a lower likelihood of having poor health literacy," the authors write.

On average, the poor literacy group had lower glaucoma understanding, missed more appointments per year and reported having missed taking eye drops more frequently than those in the adequate literacy group, with 65 patients having missed taking eye drops two or more times per month compared with only 34 patients in the adequate literacy group. Patients with poor health literacy also showed greater visual field loss at the beginning of the study and significantly worse visual field parameters when comparing recent and initial visual fields.

"Closing the gap in health literacy is one essential component in reducing disparities in glaucoma care. Screening patients for poor literacy is a first step," the authors conclude. "However, the real challenge is in shaping effective public health communication that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for patients and promotes compliance with medications and follow-up treatment with their physicians.

"In addition, there is a need to improve physician communication, which should consider the needs and competencies of patients with poor health literacy."

How You Can Help Your Child to Read - Even If You Hate Reading Books Yourself by Andy McKenna

Just because you might not enjoy classic literature or works of contemporary fiction doesn't mean that you aren't qualified to help your child improve her literacy skills.

Nor should you feel unworthy if the only real reading you do each day is flipping through the pages of the daily newspaper or a sports magazine.

Some of us, particularly if we spend our working lives reading documents and papers, would rather relax with more pleasurable reading material like magazines and articles. The thought of slogging through a Booker Prize winning work after a long day in the office really doesn't appeal.

Similarly, when you read with your child you don't necessarily need to be reading 'prescribed' books either. If the thought of reading the same old picture book for the hundredth time fills you with dread, why not read a comic book or cartoon strip with your little one instead?

If you have a hobby or interest (or did have before you had children!) reading books, magazines or articles about it with your child could be a way to get him or her interested in it too. Plus it's far more likely that you will be enthusiastic about the reading session.

Other good material could include theatre programs - especially if it is a show your child has seen and enjoyed; sporting programs, which are usually full of photos and colour; and car magazines, where you can show your child different cars and discuss their size, colour and shape. Be careful not to get too involved in the detail with these though!

To be honest, the content is not what's important. It's more the fact that you are involving your child in the communication process, and that they are becoming attuned to the association of the written word, the spoken word, and pictures.

Reading what you both enjoy will make the whole process far more pleasurable and, as a result, more successful.

About the Author
Andy McKenna is a recognised authority on child literacy and reading skills. His website provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on matters relating to child literacy and early reading.

Children's Web Sites May Be Entertaining, But May Also Make Kids Cry

Publishers of many major children's Web sites should do a better job disclosing sales and advertising information to parents, especially as more kids at younger ages go online to play and meet friends, says a study released by Consumer Reports WebWatch and the Mediatech Foundation of Flemington, N.J.

For the study, parents in 10 families used video cameras to keep journals, providing insights into the way children use sites such as Club Penguin, Webkinz, Nick Jr., and others. Footage from those journals, which can be viewed at, illustrates how young children respond to advertising and marketing tactics online.

The study, "Like Taking Candy from a Baby: How Young Children Interact with Online Environments," used ethnographic methods and focused on young children, ages 2 1/2 to 8. It can be found in its entirety online at:

Some key findings:

-- Children as young as 2 1/2 years of age are able to go online.

-- The most popular young children's sites are moderately to heavily commercialized. When rated by our test parents on a scale from 1 (not commercialized) to 5 (extremely commercialized), the 21 sites considered in this study scored a mean rating of 3.47.

-- Web sites frequently tantalize children, presenting enticing options and even threats that their online creations will become inaccessible unless a purchase is made. Some sites show attractive options that invite a click, but lead to a registration form instead. Some sell a child's prior experience -- a room they have built for a virtual pet, for instance -- back to them, using statements such as, "If you cancel your membership, then your belongings will go into storage and will be automatically retrieved when you re-subscribe."

-- Most sites we observed promote the idea of consumerism. The most common technique uses a reward-for-work basis, awarding "points, coins or dollars" for success and achievement that can then be used to "buy" items such as clothing, makeup, big-screen TVs or other accessories for virtual pets or avatars.

-- The games we observed vary widely in quality, in educational value, and in their developmental match with children's abilities. Such mismatches often result in frequent cries for help.

"There's no doubt young children love to go online, and we observed examples of wholesome, good quality, Web-delivered content," said Warren Buckleitner, the study's author. "But after watching ten hours of typical online play, we were shocked at the extent of manipulative behavior. This study shows that no one -- neither parents nor publishers -- really knows what is going on when children start up a browser. Ideally, the sites kids encounter should be designed by people with degrees in child development instead of MBAs.

"There's nothing more painful than watching a young child cry," Buckleitner said. "But unfortunately, that's the end result for too many children who are spending time with 'state-of the-art' children's online content."

The study makes these and other recommendations for parents:

-- Keep an eye on the screen. Set up the home computer in a central location so you can see what your child is doing. Lend a hand or suggest an activity that matches your child's interests or abilities and pay attention to the directions his or her activities take.

-- Be suspicious of "free" offers. As in the real world, free lunches are rare, and this is a concept children can't understand. Don't expect young children (and many adults) to understand the well-worn caution: "If something looks too good to be true, it probably is."

-- Read before you click. Before you or your children click on the "I agree" button, scour terms-of-use agreements and privacy policies to make sure you aren't agreeing to share information you don't want known. At worst, publishers make such disclosures inconvenient to read and awkward, so you are tempted to click an agreement and move on. Those emotions can be amplified when you have an anxious toddler pressing you. Also, don't download software before verifying it won't alter your computer's settings.

"We believe parents need a more complete picture of the Web sites where their young children are spending an increasing amount of time," said Beau Brendler, director of Consumer Reports WebWatch. "One test family spent $1,316 in a year on stuffed animals on a single site. Some sites play for profit on a child's emotions to the degree we saw begging, tantrums and even tears in the videos."

Canada Post Community Literacy Awards are Closing Soon

There are less than three weeks left to nominate deserving individuals and educators for a Canada Post Community Literacy Award.

These awards highlight and celebrate the achievements of Canadians making a special effort or an important contribution to improving our literacy landscape.

The Canada Post Community Literacy Awards recognize adult learners and educators in either Individual Achievement or Educator categories.

Submissions must be received in Ottawa by midnight on May 23, 2008. Finalists will be named in July and winners announced in September. Winners will be recognized at ceremonies in their communities and awarded a prize of $300 (Individual) or $500 (Educator).

Anyone interested in submitting a nomination can visit the 2008 Canada Post Community Literacy Awards website at for full program details and to download a nomination form.

Boston Schools Focus On Children by Patricia Hawke

Boston Schools have decided to pool their knowledge and focus on their students. Their ultimate goal is to accelerate the improvement of teaching and learning in all of their schools by creating a comprehensive reform plan that details everything that they know as well as the things that need to be worked on in order to create a successful school system.

Knowledge of Boson Schools Learned Over the Years

Boston Schools have gained quite a bit of knowledge over the last few years of teaching. They've learned that high standards combined with a solid curriculum can improve achievement among the students in all of their schools. Boston Schools have also learned that schools must be accountable to everyone involved, especially their students. Any effort to improve instruction must be accurately measured and reported so that everyone feels they have a stake in the education of the community's children.

They know that leadership is absolutely necessary for a successful school. Boston Schools understand that a strong principal with an outstanding teaching staff is the best combination for success. Not only is leadership important to those in Boston Schools, but so is communication. Boston Schools know that every school benefits when they communicate with each other. A problem fixed in one school can quite possibly mean that another school can fix the same problem before it begins. Teachers can communicate with one another to enhance their knowledge of teaching as well.

The Six Essential Ideas for Boston Schools Improvement

1.) Focus on Literacy and Mathematics: Boston Schools know that a good foundation in reading and math can help a child succeed to their maximum potential. Reading and math are the foundation elements to knowledge of history, science, geography, and many other useful subjects.

2.) Identifying Student Needs: Boston Schools identify the needs of their students by training their teaching staff to evaluate their work carefully and know the difference between laziness and a genuine need for help. Once the problem is identified, teachers can create a personalized, strategic plan for the individual student in order to help him get back on track.

3.) Professional Development: Offering teachers the best resources to enhance themselves professionally can not only help them, but help their students as well. Essentially, the more a teacher knows, the more a student knows.

4.) If It's Not Broke, Don't Fix It: Boston Schools are now identifying their strengths and using it to help their students as well as other schools who might not have the same strengths. Communication is especially important here because each school can give each other vital learning tools that can help them improve.

5.) Make Resources Teacher Friendly: Teacher friendly resources help teachers improve their overall knowledge of how the school works as well as their knowledge about certain subjects. Making sure that all teachers have access to the same resources promotes unity in all of Boston Schools.

6.) Engage Families: The engagement of families and the community into the Boston Schools educational community can only help the whole school system improve. The more involved people are the better.

About the Author
Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit Boston Public Schools

Please Save RIF by Gigi Reynard

As I get older there are fewer and fewer things that bring out my inner activist. But last week I found one. A very simple little news item:

President Bush's proposed 2009 budget eliminates all the funding for Reading Is Fundamental's book distribution program that has, since 1966, provided more than 325 million books to more than 30 million underprivileged children.

That got me mad -- like in mad enough to do something! Mad enough to talk about it to everyone I know. Mad enough to write my Congressperson and Senators. Mad enough to write Margaret Spilling at the US Department of education. Mad enough to write both Barbara and Laura Bush. Mad enough to sit down and my computer and start writing.

Reading is Fundamental is an awesome program! It is the oldest and largest nonprofit children's literacy program in the world. Their mission is to motivate kids to read. An important part of the program is providing books for children to explore, read and keep.

The program was started in 1966 by Margaret McNamara. While her husband was busy messing up the Vietnam War at the Defense Department she volunteered to tutor a group of Washington D.C. children in reading. One day she took a bag of used books with her. As she finished her lesson, she told each of the children that they could pick out a book to take home with them. The kids were thrilled. These children (an most of their classmates) had never owned a book!

Margarat was astonished by the reaction. She was infected by thier enthusiams and decided right then and there to do something. She recruited her friends, raised money everywhere she could and started collecting books to give away. For the next nine years her efforts created a program that gave away books to children in the Washington D.C. public school system.

In 1975 the US Congress passed a bill that provided matching funds to RIF. For the last 33 years (in a row) Congress has funded this program. Reading is Fundamental now serves children and families in every state, district and territory of the US. Last year, the program gave away 16 million free books to 4.5 million children!

Now, the Bush administration has decided to eliminate RIF's funding! Evidently it is more important to rebuild Iraq, bail out corporations and build Bridges to Nowhere than it is to promote literacy here at home.

It is hard to believe, but this is the second time that Presdient Bush has attempted to cut funding for RIF. The first time (in 2001) there was such a public outcry that the administration finally backed down.

This story becomes even more curious when you consider that Barbara Bush served on RIF's board of directors from 1980 to 1988 and then on its national advisory board from 1989 to 1992 . Add to that the fact that Laura Bush served on RIF's national advisory council from 1996 to 2001.

It is time for us to raise our voices in protest! PLEASE go to the RIF site and voice your opinion.

The site provides links to find your senator and representative and gives you information about how to send an e-mail message to them. Join me and thousands of others in making our voices heard! Write to Barbara and Laura for good measure! But hurry, there is not a lot of time because the appropriation committee will be meeting in May and June to decide on budgets.

Oh yeah, I should mention that this item even made me mad enough to actually make a donation to RIF. This is an organization that deserves our support!

The families and children affected by this cut in funding are the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. There aren't any lobbyists in Washington advocating for them! Children have no voice or power in our society and the depend on adults like us to speak up. To give them a voice.

So get busy -- write, call, spread the word, donate. Let's make sure that kids get the chance to have free books to explore, read and keep! Let's make the outcry so loud that we can't be ignored!

Thank you for your support!

About the Author
Gigi Reynard is CEO of eBooks About Everything ( She has a passion for books and is a champion of literacy. She knows from her life experience that books can change a child's world. Gigi lives in Southern California with her writer husband, Henri, their cat, computers, electronic gadgets and thousands of (paper) books.

New Literacy Ph.D. Will Change the Teaching of Reading

A new approach to understanding why a child doesn't learn how to read includes looking underneath the scores to the humanity of the individual. Children are indeed being left behind because the totality of the person isn't being taught. A new Literacy Studies degree forces professionals to rethink and relearn the teaching of reading by bringing together many disciplines that support successful literacy.

Experienced and successful educators with graduate degrees and a minimum of three years of field experience will be returning to Middle Tennessee State University in the fall because they realize that what they already know about helping a child become a skilled reader isn't enough anymore. In fact, it falls far short.

School psychologists, speech-language pathologists, reading teachers, classroom teachers and school administrators at all levels will be among those enrolling in MTSU's new Ph.D. in Literacy Studies degree. This program will come face to face with why the National Assessment of Education Progress consistently shows that an average of four out of 10 children fail to read at grade level by fourth grade.

The interdisciplinary doctorate is based on the idea that narrow expertise in a single area does not equip graduates to understand the many factors that support successful literacy.

The new doctoral is a first-of-its-kind partnership that has emerged from the Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia at MTSU, a hands-on learning lab that may be the only one of its kind in the nation. The Dyslexia Center is a unit within the College of Education and Behavioral Science where professionals with different backgrounds work together to improve educational outcomes for children with dyslexia. The doctorate has been shaped and will be governed by faculty representing several academic departments: educational leadership, elementary & special education, dyslexic studies, psychology, sociology, English (linguistics) and communication disorders. Program faculty are listed at

"This degree is important because it reflects the direction of the institution as manifested in the academic master plan, which identifies areas that are strategic, for the discipline and for the region," commented Dr. Kaylene Gebert, MTSU executive vice president and provost. "This program will be a fulcrum for additional research projects … and for bringing students to MTSU who will learn from the very best faculty."

Dr. Diane J. Sawyer, holder of the Katherine Davis Murfree Chair of Excellence in Dyslexic Studies at MTSU, explained that in formulating the course of study for the Ph.D. in literacy, program faculty from many areas looked at what the research in each of their disciplines reveals about how people learn to read and how teachers need to understand the teaching of reading.

"We looked at a curriculum, stemming from both research and practice, that typical preparation programs do not provide," Sawyer said. "We're bringing together neurobiology and neuropsychology to help people understand that the learning of reading really does involve the brain. It also involves the culture and environment in which one learns—and so we included the socio-cultural aspect as well."

A practicum will require students to go out into the field and test what they're learning and then bring back the reality of the field to their classrooms, Sawyer said.

"We're looking across disciplines to bring people into the study of literacy in an interdisciplinary way -- and to take their learning back into their respective fields to enhance the educational process," she noted.

"Because of the unique, interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach that characterizes this degree, it really fills a void in the learning environment," stated Dr. Gloria Bonner, dean of MTSU's College of Education and Behavioral Science.

"Given the crisis in the schools, and in particular ‘No Child Left Behind' and the achievement gap that is really expanding, this ought to have tremendous appeal."

A key question that reflects the bottom-line meaning of this new degree is … How will the pedagogical issues and academic jargon trickle down and really affect the child in elementary school who is struggling with reading?

"If we don't catch [this struggle] before grade four, it has implications for the rest of their academic career," Bonner observed.

One goal of the program is to train professionals who can support changes in how and when schools identify and help struggling readers.

"The models by which schools identify and support at-risk and low-performing students are changing," explained Dr. Stuart Bernstein, director of the MTSU Dyslexia Center. "The current model is nicknamed ‘wait to fail' because schools are forced to wait until children have fallen many years behind the other children in their grade before certain resources can be brought to bear.

"A new model called 'Response to Intervention' represents a departure in which frequent focused assessments are closely tied to instructional decisions so that children can get help at the point when they do not learn something rather than years later," Bernstein continued. "However, this shift requires that the classroom teacher, reading specialists, curriculum supervisors, even principals understand the nuances of literacy assessment and how to shape instruction based on those more focused assessments. The Ph.D. in Literacy Studies will address this. … We can no longer train reading professionals in just one narrow domain," Bernstein added. "They need training that is broad and the opportunity to integrate this spectrum of knowledge."

Sawyer says that schools need to "get beneath the scores" to reach a better understanding of where learning has broken down. "Traditionally, what those who teach reading have learned about measurement is that tests give you scores and that children are scaled on those scores—and if you have a particular kind of score, you're in trouble," she pointed out. "But there's no instruction that helps them to understand where and how learning has broken down. So we use the shotgun approach, thinking that more of the same must be appropriate because they didn't get it the first time. But we don't know why or where specifically that breakdown was."

It is Sawyer's vision that the new doctoral degree will produce a greater understanding of learning and of both the strengths and weaknesses of current reading assessment tools and instructional practices.

"It's looking underneath the scores to the humanity," she summarized.

Sawyer and Bernstein point out an interesting paradox. On one hand, four out of 10 children cannot read and comprehend at grade level. Similarly, four in 10 adults can't read an average newspaper. Yet, reading is "one of the most over-studied things on the planet," Bernstein notes. "It's like talking about the weather—everybody does it. The over-studying of reading results in too much information of varying quality, and it's hard for anyone at any point in the process to understand what has a good chance of working and what doesn't."

Once the new degree is launched in the fall, Sawyer and her team plan to hold a series of roundtable sessions composed of classroom teachers, principals, parents, professionals and doctoral students to discuss the learning process and reading instruction.

"We hope to attract people who are good at what they do and want to become even better," Sawyer said. "It takes very bright and dedicated educators to rethink what they know to be right and good, to analyze their successes and failures and to reach out for new learning experiences that will enable them to arrive at new concepts."

To learn more about the new Ph.D. in Literacy Studies degree, including course requirements, visit or call Dyslexic Studies at 615-898-5642.

What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in American Schools

While online booksellers offer lists of bestselling children's books, and libraries collect circulation data, Renaissance Learning, Inc., has just released a groundbreaking report about the books American students are actually reading -- cover to cover. The first of its kind, What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in American Schools compiles lists of the top 20 books students read in 2007 by grade, gender, U.S. region, and reading achievement level.

Among the report's key findings:

-- Students are still reading the classics. Even with recently published books dominating best-seller lists for weeks and months at a time, the classics have a strong representation in the report's most-read lists. In fact, the top read book overall in grades 9-12 was Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. And other classics, including S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, and Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham consistently topped several of the various grade-level lists.

-- Lists of frequently read books include very few nonfiction titles. Notably missing from the lists of top 20 most-read books by U.S. students are nonfiction or historical works, critical to rounding out the repertoire of a well-read student.

Four award-winning authors whose books frequent the most-read lists contributed essays to What Kids Are Reading: Mary Pope Osborne, S.E. Hinton, Daniel Handler, and Christopher Paul Curtis.

To read the full report, visit

Renaissance Learning's unique perspective into the books students are reading comes from the Accelerated Reader (AR) database, which, for last year alone, included 78 million book reading records of more than 3 million students in grades 1-12 at more than 9,800 schools nationwide. The Accelerated Reader software, which helps teachers accurately and efficiently monitor student book reading, and other Renaissance Learning reading programs are in use at 63,000 U.S. schools.

Ontario Opening More Family Literacy Centres

Ontario will open 34 new Parenting and Family Literacy Centres in schools this September. The $2 million investment will help more young children get a great start on learning.

Research shows that early childhood education helps to improve student achievement and prepare children for school. The centres help children up to six years of age build essential language, numbers and social skills through stories, music and play. Parents or caregivers attend with the children and engage in their learning.

Located in schools in high-needs communities, the centres also help ease the transition to kindergarten by:

- Familiarizing children and families with school routines - Giving children and families the chance to spend time with other families - Linking families with appropriate community resources for special needs, health and other related services.

- The centres are free to attend and families do not have to pre-register.

- Each centre has a book-lending library in different languages so parents can read to children in their first language.

- This investment builds on the $6 million announced in June 2007 for 89 centres. There will now be a total of 123 centres across the province.

Find out if there is a centre near you (

Read tips for parents to help your child learn (

25% of U.S. Children in Poverty Getting Books

More than 50,000 doctors have given 20 million free books to America's youngest children living in poverty, thanks to Reach Out and Read. Partnering with doctors to give free books to children and literacy advice to their parents at check-ups, Reach Out and Read now reaches 25 percent of low-income U.S. infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The children's literacy program recently reached all three milestones.

Proven to improve school readiness, Reach Out and Read focuses on those children at greatest risk - children age 6 months to 5 years living at or near poverty -- during the critical years before they enter kindergarten.

Through Reach Out and Read, doctors distribute carefully selected new, developmentally- and culturally-appropriate books, starting with board books for babies followed by more complex picture books for preschoolers. Bilingual books are available in 12 languages. Each child who participates in Reach Out and Read starts kindergarten with a home library of up to 10 books and a parent who has heard at every well-child visit about the importance of reading.

Research shows Reach Out and Read works. Studies find that parents who get books and literacy counseling from their health care provider are more likely to read to their young children, read to them more often, and provide more books in the home. Low-income children who participate in Reach Out and Read score significantly higher on vocabulary tests and show improved language development -- the single strongest predictor of school success.

Co-founded in 1989 by Dr. Barry Zuckerman, who serves as CEO and Board Chairman, Reach Out and Read is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The only American literacy program featured at the White House Conference on Global Literacy, Reach Out and Read is one of only two organizations worldwide to win the 2007 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy.

This year, American doctors will give 5.4 million new books to 3.3 million low-income families in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. International programs have been started in Africa, Italy, Israel, the Philippines, England, and Canada. For further information, visit

Mothers Can Improve Children's Academic Success by Reading

On May 11 -- the day of celebrating the mothers in our lives and all they do for us -- the National Center for Family Literacy is encouraging moms to renew their commitment to making reading a daily habit for the family.

"Those fond times spent in a rocking chair reading with your mom are more than memories," said Sharon Darling, president & founder of the National Center for Family Literacy. "They are critical for children's future academic success. That's right, your performance on tests and in school is greatly influenced by your mother's education level and involvement in your schooling."

But literacy in the home can be a challenge for busy families. Consider a National Endowment for the Arts survey that reported an overall decline of 10 percent for reading literature among all ages. The largest decline was among the youngest age groups -- 28 percent.

"Many moms wonder what they can do to help their children be successful in school. The answer is surprisingly simple," Darling said. "Many of the things parents do with their children as they work, play, read and talk together have an impact on the skills needed to become a confident and competent student. Singing songs, making up silly rhymes, talking about what you see, pointing out letters and words in the environment and reading together are just a few activities parents can do."

Parents support their children's learning as they talk at the dinner table, play games together, share household chores or ride in the car. Here are a few easy things moms can do to give literacy a boost at home:

• Make reading a family habit. Everyone should have a library card and teach children that reading is fun. Create reading rituals by setting aside a special time and place every day to enjoy stories without interruptions. In addition, by cuddling closely with your child to foster a sense of security, you eliminate stress, which scientists have found produces a hormone that blocks learning;

• Take advantage of free resources developed through research of best practices. New, portable learning opportunities provide free online educational tools through a website portal called Resources include a parent activity calendar, which offers activities for families to build important literacy skills together, plus a series of podcasts on the topic of sharing stories with children. These activities can be found at: In addition, NCFL recently released a free 16-page magazine called Cultivating Readers contains dozens of tips and activities. It is available by contacting

• Use mealtimes as an opportunity to drive learning. Pilot programs have shown success in incorporating mealtime with literacy. In Southern California, the McDonald's Family Mealtime Literacy Nights have resulted in 90 percent of families attending the entire five-week program, and parents using its strategies and materials at home to improve literacy skills;

• Make literacy and reading activities portable: As you're driving across town or on vacation, look for signs with words that begin with the same letters as child's name. Play "My Grandmother's Trunk," an old favorite that helps with learning the alphabet. One child says: "My grandmother is going on a trip, and in her trunk she packed an apple."

Each person remembers what the other items were and adds an item that begins with the next letter of the alphabet. Make up rhymes using words or items you see as you drive along or alliteration statements where all the words begin with the same sound. See how long you can keep the rhyme or alliteration statement going; and

• Use certain techniques for reading that have been proven to increase effectiveness in reading time, including:

• Providing sound effects to capture their attention;

• Making connections between the spoken and written word because hearing sounds in words is a basic skill needed for reading;

• Talking about the story to reinforce comprehension and memory skills; and

• Reading it again because repetition helps children recognize and remember words.

Source: The National Center for Family Literacy,

$55,000 in Scholarships to Houston-Area Students

For the first time ever in Houston, 55 local high school seniors are receiving a helping hand for college in the form of $1,000 scholarships from the Comcast Foundation. The Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program, one of the Comcast Foundation's signature community investment programs, recognizes students in local communities who have demonstrated leadership skills, academic achievement and a commitment to community service.

A commitment to community service is an essential component in the selection of winners of Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarships. This year's winners have participated in a wide variety of community service activities, such as helping revitalize communities as part of mission work, mentoring and coaching younger students, volunteering at hospitals and participating in local blood, food and clothing drives. Local community organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCA, the American Red Cross, Special Olympics and the Houston Area Women's Center have benefited from their service.

Nationally, 1,965 high school seniors are the beneficiaries of $1,000 Comcast Leaders and Achievers scholarships this year. In the eight years since the Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program began, it has awarded close to $10 million in college aid to more than 9,000 students. Local Houston area scholarship winners will be attending colleges such as the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Rice University, Texas Southern University, University of Houston, Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.

Each year, Comcast works with high school principals, guidance counselors, and school administrators to select the scholarship recipients. The program is managed by Scholarship Program Administrators -- an independent, not-for-profit organization that manages corporate and corporate foundation scholarship programs.

For additional information, visit

Concrete Examples Don't Help Students Learn Math, Study Finds

A new study challenges the common practice in many classrooms of teaching mathematical concepts by using "real-world," concrete examples.

Researchers led by Jennifer Kaminski, research scientist at Ohio State University's Center for Cognitive Science, found that college students who learned a mathematical concept with concrete examples couldn't apply that knowledge to new situations.

But when students first learned the concept with abstract symbols, they were much more likely to transfer that knowledge, according to the study published in the April 25 issue of the journal Science.

"These findings cast doubt on a long-standing belief in education," said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study and professor of psychology and human development and the director of the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State.

"The belief in using concrete examples is very deeply ingrained, and hasn't been questioned or tested."

Kaminski and Sloutsky conducted the study with Andrew Heckler, assistant professor of physics at Ohio State.

Teachers often use real-world examples in math class, the researchers said. In some classrooms, for example, teachers may explain probability by pulling a marble out of a bag of red and blue marbles and determining how likely it will be one color or the other.

But students may learn better if teachers explain the concept as the probability of choosing one of n things from a larger set of m things, Kaminski said.

The issue can also be seen in the story problems that math students are often given, she explained. For example, there is the classic problem of two trains that leave different cities heading toward each other at different speeds. Students are asked to figure out when the two trains will meet.

"The danger with teaching using this example is that many students only learn how to solve the problem with the trains," Kaminski said.

"If students are later given a problem using the same mathematical principles, but about rising water levels instead of trains, that knowledge just doesn't seem to transfer," she said.

"It is very difficult to extract mathematical principles from story problems," Sloutsky added. "Story problems could be an incredible instrument for testing what was learned. But they are bad instruments for teaching."

In the research presented in Science, the researchers did several separate experiments that examined how well undergraduate students learned a simple mathematical concept under different conditions. The concept involved basic mathematical properties such as commutativity and associativity – the fact that you can change the order of elements without changing the results. For instance, 3+2 and 2+3 both equal 5.

In the various experiments, some students learned these principles using generic symbols, in which combinations of two or more symbols resulted in a predictable resulting symbol.

Others were presented with one or more concrete examples that involved this same concept. In one concrete example, students viewed three images of measuring cups with varying levels of liquid. Participants were told they needed to determine the remaining amount when different cups of liquid were combined.

Two other concrete examples were used in various experiments – one involving how many slices of pizza in a pizza pie were overcooked, and one involving how many tennis balls were in a container.

After learning this math concept using the concrete examples or abstract, generic symbols, the students took a multiple-choice quiz demonstrating that they learned the principles involved. And in all cases, the study showed that most undergraduate students picked up the knowledge easily.

However, the true test came later when the researchers asked these students to apply the same principles in a totally different setting, which was described to them as a children's game from another country. The rules of this game followed the principles which they had just learned. The researchers calculated how well the participants did on a multiple choice test involving the rules of that children's game.

In the first experiment, involving 80 students, some participants were given one concrete example before testing on the children's game, while some were given two or three examples. One group only learned the generic symbols.

When tested on the children's game, the group that learned the generic symbols got nearly 80 percent of the questions right. Those who learned one, two or even three concrete examples did no better than chance in selecting the right answers.

"They were just guessing," Kaminski said.

In a second experiment, the researchers gave 20 participants two concrete examples and explained how they were alike. Surprisingly, this still did not help students apply the concept any better and they still did no better than chance when tested later about the game.

In a third experiment, the researchers presented 20 students with two concrete examples and then asked them to compare the two examples and write down any similarities they saw. After this experiment, about 44 percent of the students performed well on the test concerning the children's game, while the remainder still did not perform better than chance.

This suggests that only some students, not all, benefit from direct comparison of learned concrete examples.

Finally, in a fourth experiment involving 40 students, some learned the concrete example first followed by the generic symbols, while others learned only the generic symbols. The thought here was that the concrete example would engage the students in the learning process while the generic symbols would promote transfer of that knowledge.

But even in this experiment, students who learned only the generic symbols performed better on subsequent testing than those who learned the concept using the concrete example and then the generic symbols.

The authors said that students seem to learn concepts quickly when they are presented with familiar real objects such as marbles or containers of liquid, and so it is easy to see why many advocate this approach. "But it turns out there is no true insight there. They can't move beyond these real objects to apply that knowledge," said Sloutsky.

The problem may be that extraneous information about marbles or containers might divert attention from the real mathematics behind it all, according to Kaminski.

"We really need to strip these concepts down to very symbolic representations such as variables and numbers," she said. "Then students are better prepared to apply those concepts in a variety of situations.

The authors said they doubt this paper will end the debate over approaches to teaching mathematics, but they hope it will generate interest into systematic examination of which ways of teaching mathematics are most effective.

The research was funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.

New Weekly TV Show: 'Read-Empower-Succeed'

Pro-Literacy Detroit, a non-profit organization with the mission of creating literacy awareness and helping people learn and improve their reading skills, will be hosting a weekly television show, "Read-Empower-Succeed" on Detroit cable station WHPR, Channel 33 (Comcast carries it on Channel 20).

The 1-hour program which is broadcast twice a week on Monday at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday at 6:00 p.m., and then re-run at various intervals, intends to reach a wide audience in Metro-Detroit.

Backed by noted entertainment entrepreneur, R.J. Watkins, the program offers viewers a friendly instruction with a motivational approach towards the audience. Several local guest celebrities will talk about the benefits of reading. Pro-Literacy Detroit has a strong backing of literacy volunteers who will also share their experience, expertise and teach the audience.

"Literacy should NEVER be taken for granted or dismissed," said Margaret Williamson, Executive Director, Pro-Literacy Detroit. "Our syllabus is proven and accelerates reading levels. Part of the message we want to share with people is that it is no shame to be behind in your reading, but it is important to recognize and remediate that by getting tutored. We hope that viewers will tune in to see that every sentence and book read, helps you become a better person. We truly believe that improved reading skills are the key to advancing in life."


On-Line Children's Book Registry

Parents finally have a rewarding alternative to the chaos and clutter that has taken over the world of gift registries. My Book Stork is a philanthropic children's book registry designating 5% of sales to charity. My Book Stork inspires imagination, brings families together, creates an enthusiasm for books that contributes to the future academic success of children, and maximizes the contribution reading makes to the quality of our lives.

My Book Stork features an innovative charitable program that allows customers to expand their giving by lending a hand to those in need. My Book Stork has partnered with a growing list of carefully selected organizations such as Children's Memorial Hospital, Kids Korps USA, 1st Touch Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, and Global Green USA, creating opportunities for everyone to make a difference. Each time a book or gift basket is purchased for a child, five percent of the sale is donated to the organization of the customer's choice. The simple act of giving the gift of reading to one child can impact the lives of countless others!

Parents who register at My Book Stork set into motion a powerful chain of events. Their child benefits from the fabulous gifts literature provides; family and friends are honored by being invited to play a lasting role in the support network of the child and now have a convenient and reliable way to give a gift that they know will be cherished and appreciated. By choosing specific books, the parents control the type of gifts coming into their home, eliminating duplicate and unwanted books. And, more than with any other baby gift, parents can feel satisfaction in knowing that the joy of this special moment in life is magnified by the gift of books to their child, and the gift of giving to the many who benefit from charitable giving.

Setting up a book registry for your baby or toddler is free, simple, and fun. Visit, go to the "My Registry" page where the instructions will walk you through the process with ease.

2008 Heritage Community Recognition Program Seeking Nominations

The Ontario Heritage Trust is seeking nominations for its 2008 Heritage Community Recognition Program, which celebrates volunteers for outstanding achievements to preserve, protect and promote Ontario's heritage. The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 4, 2008.

Through the Heritage Community Recognition Program, candidates can be nominated for contributions to built, cultural and natural heritage, or for lifetime achievement. There is also a special category for the Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award, which recognizes individuals who have made sustained volunteer contributions to heritage conservation over a period of 25 years or more. The program guidelines and nomination form are available at

The Heritage Community Recognition Program provides an opportunity for municipal councils, regional councils, First Nation band councils and Métis community councils to celebrate the achievements of individual heritage volunteers and small project groups. Community and heritage organizations should contact their local council about proposed nominations, which must be endorsed by the mayor, reeve, warden, regional chair, chief or council president.

Examples of volunteer activities eligible for recognition through the program include: leadership or fundraising to support the restoration of a heritage structure; volunteering with a Municipal Heritage Committee, historical society, museum, historic site, conservation area or natural heritage organization; research, writing or volunteer teaching related to local history or traditions; or involvement in activities that protect, preserve or promote First Nations, Métis, Franco-Ontarian or other cultural heritage.

Premier's Reading Challenge A Fund Of Fun For Kids

Thousands of Victorian children have even more books to read in public libraries thanks to the Brumby Government.

The first $2 million of the Premier's Reading Challenge Book Fund has been spent on new books and Premier John Brumby joined Local Government Minister Richard Wynne at The Age Library in Broadmeadows today to read with some of the children who have benefited from the fund.

Mr Brumby said Reading Challenge had already resulted in over seven million books read by Victorian children in the last three years.

"I'm delighted to say that the number of children completing the Challenge has risen significantly since its launch in 2005 resulting in an increase in reading among school students and the Book Fund will build on that success by enabling our public libraries to improve access to the books and materials on the Challenge reading list," Mr Brumby said.

"The Book Fund was established to increase participation even further and to help Victoria's students to develop a lifelong love of reading and discover new worlds, new words, new ideas and new friends in books.

"They have developed new skills in reading and literacy and for learning in all areas of their lives."

Mr Wynne said the first $2 million of the overall $6 million Book Fund includes $10,000 for every council in Victoria, $1 million for school libraries and funding for Vision Australia so vision impaired students are able to take part in the Reading Challenge.

He said a further $3 million will be awarded to Victoria's public libraries from the Book Fund over the next three years.

"I want to pay tribute to library staff that have taken on their role in the Challenge and have such a vital part to play in opening young people's eyes to the benefits of reading," Mr Wynne said.

Hume City Council Mayor Cr Mohamad Abbouche welcomed Hume's participation in the Premier's Reading Challenge.

"I am thrilled that Hume Libraries are part of this initiative, as it encourages children and teenagers in our community to get involved in reading and lifelong learning," Mr Abbouche said.

For more information on the Premier's Reading Challenge, go to