Digital Literacy Crucial for UK's Global Competitiveness

Greater Understanding of Digital Literacy is Essential for Young People and Their Future job Prospects According to Virtual Voices Conference

The topic of media literacy was discussed last week at Virtual Voices, an event which brought together young people, educators, policymakers and media figures. After a series of debates and workshops all 100% of delegates agreed when polled that understanding media literacy is vital for future success and that the government should do more to support media literacy to help Britain remain competitive.

Resources from the event including photographs, podcasts and supporting material are all now available online at

The key conclusions from the event were:

- Media industry and education need to work closer together to ensure that young people have a voice

- Both industry and education want the same thing: a democracy where everyone has a voice and where talent has a chance to shine.

- We must help young people learn how to decipher what information on the web is real, what is a myth or reality, as well as how to communicate online

- Teachers and the government have a vital role to play in teaching media literacy skills, or Britain's competitive position will be at risk

- Online media presents great opportunities for young people to have their say

- Young people are producing some exceptional issues-based work and we need to find ways to bring this into the mainstream

Virtual Voices took place on 10th July in Bristol. It was organised by South West Screen, the development agency for the creative media industries in the South West of England.

The day included a screening of work produced by young people, the films of which are online at

Photographs from the day are available on Flickr

A podcast of the introduction and keynote speech from the day is at

Disadvantaged Youths Receive $330,000 in Grants to Support Educational Programs

Staples Foundation for Learning has awarded 36 grants totaling $328,825 to non-profit organizations dedicated to serving youth throughout the country. These organizations were selected for their commitment to providing educational and job skills programs that help at-risk youth develop the skills necessary to become responsible adults and community leaders.

"Staples Foundation for Learning is committed to supporting organizations that provide disadvantaged youth with growth opportunities," said Ron Sargent, president of Staples Foundation for Learning and chairman and chief executive officer of Staples, Inc. "These recipient organizations embody the foundation's mission to teach, train and inspire young people from all walks of life to realize their full potential."

Staples Foundation for Learning's newest grant recipients include:

Accel, Phoenix, AZ --- $5,000 to Schools-to-Work Job Coach Project, an intensive job readiness program that enables disabled youth to prepare for the workforce.

After-School All Stars, Los Angeles, CA --- $20,000 to All Stars Sustainability, an after-school program that provides at-risk youth with academic enrichment activities.

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA --- $10,000 to Aquarium Scholarship Fund, which provides elementary school students with hands-on marine science education.

Arts-Kids, Inc., Park City, UT --- $10,000 to Arts-Kids' after school program that teaches youth with disabilities to positively express themselves through art.

Blue Kiwi, Forest, VA --- $6,000 to Grow One Summer Camp, which enables inner-city students to increase their entrepreneurial and business skills.

Bottom Line, Boston, MA --- $10,000 to College Access, which prepares low-income students to graduate from high school and enter college.

Boys & Girls Club of Kingman, Kingman, AZ --- $3,000 to MethSMART, which encourages youth to stop using drugs and achieve academic success.

Boys & Girls Club of Newton, Newton, MA --- $5,000 to the Learning Center, which provides Boys & Girls Club members with academic support and mentoring.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA --- $2,725 to Super Film Camp, which teaches disadvantaged youth basic film skills and techniques.

Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD --- $10,000 to National Summer Learning day, which is an annual event promoting continued learning throughout the summer.

Center for Women & Enterprise, Providence, RI --- $10,000 to Financial Literacy & Entrepreneurial Training to Girls, which provides Latina youth with financial management skills.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation, Carrboro, NC --- $10,000 to the Teacher Store, which enables teachers from disadvantaged school systems to receive free supplies for their classrooms.

The Children's Museum of Denver, Denver, CO --- $10,000 to G.R.O.W. Science and Literacy Collaborative, which increases students' academic success through interactive, educational exhibits.

Citizens Schools --- $25,000 to support after-school programs in Newark, NJ; New Brunswick, NJ, Austin, TX and Houston, TX that enable low-income youth to grow their team-building and leadership skills.

The Civic Education Project, Boston, MA --- $5,000 to Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, which increases high school students' understanding of civics and the American legal system.

East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Detroit, MI --- $10,000 to Learning Sustainability, which provides youth with the resources to become environmental leaders.

The Education Foundation of Harris County, Houston, TX --- $21,000 to Teacher of the Month, which recognizes teachers for their commitment to student success.

Girls for A Change, San Jose, CA --- $10,000 to Girls for A Change National Expansion, which inspires girls to identify social issues in their community and implement solutions.

Greater Palm River Point, Tampa, FL --- $7,500 to The Palm River Youth Corps, which teaches inner-city youth entrepreneurial and business literacy skills.

John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation, Wayland MA --- $5,000 to Mazie Mentoring, which recruits and trains adult volunteers to serve as positive role models for low-income youth.

Junior Achievement of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM --- $10,000 to Junior Achievement Hispanic Initiative, which teaches underserved Hispanic youth financial literacy skills.

Kids in Need Foundation, Dayton, OH --- $10,000 to their National Network Summit, which helps company employees learn best practices to most efficiently run their free school supply stores for teachers from low-income schools.

Kunte Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, Annapolis, MD --- $7,600 to Building Literacy through Multi-Generational Teaming, which unites youth with their grandparents to learn about African-American culture and history through reading.

Lisa Najemy Scholarship Fund, Inc., Framingham, MA --- $10,000 to the Lisa Najemy Scholarship Fund, which ensures low-income children have access to quality child care. This fund was created in memory of Lisa Najemy, a former Staples associate, who advocated for quality early care and education for young children.

Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth (MITY), St. Paul, MN --- $5,000 to MITY AID, which enables underserved high school students to prepare and succeed in college.

NetworkArts Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA --- $7,500 to Educational Mosaics, which enables students to create art to beautify their school.

Open Meadow Alternative Schools, Portland, OR --- $5,000 to Career Services Transition Advocate, which enables youth to grow their career skills.

Operation A.B.L.E., Boston, MA--- $5,000 to Operation Service, which enables low-income adults to increase their career opportunities through customer service training.

The National Science and Technology Education Partnership (NSTEP), New York, NY --- $10,000 to NSTEP Study Buddy, which helps students increase their science and technology skills.

PENCIL, Inc., New York, NY --- $10,000 to Pencil Partnership Program, which creates long-term relationships between business leaders and public schools to increase the quality of education.

Prevention Council of Central Ohio, Columbus, OH --- $3,500 to support an after-school program that enables at-risk youth from Hispanic and Latino backgrounds to improve their academic skills.

Project R.I.S.E., Braintree, MA --- $10,000 to support Project R.I.S.E's summer program that enable youth to receive academic tutoring and support.

Resonate, San Francisco, CA --- $15,000 to Spark Apprenticeship Program, which motivates at-risk middle school students to succeed and become engaged citizens.

School-to-Work Council, Inc., Paris, KY --- $10,000 to Plan for Success, which enables high school students to develop and improve their character and leadership skills.

Teaching for Change, Washington, D.C. --- $10,000 to Roving Readers, which enables parents to read with children and share culturally diverse stories.

Youth Base, Greenville, SC --- $5,000 to support their after-school program that provides at-risk youth with academic support and mentoring.


Full-day Kindergarteners' Reading, Math Gains Fade By 3rd Grade

Children in full-day kindergarten have slightly better reading and math skills than children in part-day kindergarten, but these initial academic benefits diminish soon after the children leave kindergarten. This loss is due, in part, to issues related to poverty and the quality of children's home environments.

Those are the findings from a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Loyola University Chicago. The study sheds light on policy discussions as full-day kindergarten programs become increasingly common in the United States.

Using data on 13,776 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study--Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, a study of a nationally representative group of kindergartners, the researchers measured children's academic achievement in math and reading in the fall and spring of their kindergarten and first-grade years, and in the spring of their third- and fifth-grade years. The researchers also looked at the type and extent of child care the children received outside of kindergarten, the quality of cognitive stimulation the children received at home, and the poverty level of the children's families.

Overall, the study found that the reading and math skills of children in full-day kindergarten grew faster from the fall to the spring of their kindergarten year, compared to the academic skills of children in part-day kindergarten.

However, the study also found that the full-day kindergarteners' gains in reading and math did not last far beyond the kindergarten year. In fact, from the spring of their kindergarten year through fifth grade, the academic skills of children in part-day kindergarten grew faster than those of children in full-day kindergarten, with the advantage of full-day versus part-day programs fading by the spring of third grade. The fade-out can be explained, in part, by the fact that the children in part-day kindergarten were less poor and had more stimulating home environments than those in full-day programs, according to the study.

"The results of this study suggest that the shift from part-day to full-day kindergarten programs occurring across the U.S. may have positive implications for students' learning trajectories in the short run," notes Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and the study's lead author. "They also highlight that characteristics of children and their families play noteworthy roles in why the full-day advantages fade relatively quickly."

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Reading, Math Scores Up For U.S. 4th And 8th Graders

The United States' fourth and eighth graders scored higher in reading and mathematics than they did during their last national assessment, according to the federal government's latest annual statistical report on the well-being of the nation's children. Not all the report's findings were positive; there also were increases in the adolescent birth rate and the proportion of infants born at low birthweight.

These and other findings are described in America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008. The report is compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of Federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families, with partners in private research organizations. It serves as a report card on the status of the nation's children and youth, presenting statistics compiled by a number of federal agencies in one convenient reference.

"In 2007, scores of fourth and eighth graders were higher in mathematics than in all previous assessments and higher in reading than in 2005," said Valena Plisko, associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a part of the U.S. Department of Education.

This year's report also saw an increase in low birthweight infants (less than 5 pounds 8 ounces). Low birthweight infants are at increased risk for infant death and such lifelong disabilities as blindness, deafness and cerebral palsy.

"This trend reflects an increase in the number of infants born prematurely, the largest category of low birthweight infants," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. Although not all the reasons for the increase are known, infertility therapies, delayed childbearing and an increase in multiple births may be contributing factors.

The birth rate among adolescent girls ages 15 to 17 also increased, from 21 live births for every 1,000 girls in 2005, to 22 per 1,000 in 2006. This was the first increase in the past 15 years.

"It is critical that we continue monitoring this trend carefully," said Edward J. Sondik, PhD, director of the National Center for Health Statistics in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Compared with other teens their age, teen mothers are less likely to finish high school or to graduate from college. Infants born to teen mothers are more likely to be of low birthweight."

Among the favorable changes in the report were a decline in childhood deaths from injuries and a decrease in the percentage of eighth graders who smoked daily.


Reading for pleasure is crucial, say leading authors

Teaching children to enjoy reading rather than just to read is vital in improving literacy, according to two leading authors appearing at the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) international conference in Liverpool this week.

Prue Goodwin, Editor of Understanding Children's Books: A Guide for Education Professionals and Michael Lockwood, author of Promoting Reading for Pleasure in the Primary School, both published this month by SAGE, believe that while learning to read can be hard, it is significantly harder if children are not engaged and motivated with the right kind of literature. They further emphasize that teachers and parents working together play a vital role in nurturing young readers with a life-long love of reading. The promotion of reading for pleasure is a key part of the National Year of Reading, and government-led initiatives such as BookStart and Every Child Matters.

Both books offer practical guidance for teachers and families to better understand children's literature themselves, and to understand the role that books play in children's intellectual, spiritual and moral development. This engagement commences right from infancy (Goodwin features contribution on books for babies from Liz Attenborough of the National Literacy Trust) through to young adult-hood. Most importantly, they promote the importance of all reading, from fiction to comics and traditional tales.

"There is no question that primary teachers need a really strong knowledge of a whole range of children's books - not just fiction - but also non-fiction and poetry," says Goodwin. "Teachers need to be able to use and share books with children that will engage them and motivate them, and in turn children need books that they can pick up and read comfortably so they experience being an engaged reader."

Bestselling children's author Philip Pullman agrees.

"Pleasure is not a frivolous extra, but the very heart and essence of what reading is about," says Pullman about Lockwood's book.

Both Lockwood and Goodwin emphasize the importance of the family in promoting reading for pleasure and that it should take place both in the classroom and elsewhere.

"Reluctant readers often show a lack of appreciation of the place of reading in daily life, equating books and reading with school literacy only, and making few connections with their home or community literacies," says Lockwood. "These are readers who can read, but perceive reading as something they are forced to do in the classroom and will not choose to do once out of it."

With advice from the leading experts in literacy and education, along with practical guidance and case studies based on first-hand research, these two publications provide detailed guidance and support on how to promote reading for enjoyment.

Promoting Reading for Pleasure in the Primary School by Michael Lockwood is published by SAGE, available in paperback and hardcover from

Understanding Children's Books by Prue Goodwin is published by SAGE, available in paperback and hardcover from

New Literacy Forum Archives

The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) has launched its Literacy Forum archives, a diverse collection of webcast stories, experiences, and expertise on literacy. Ministers of education from across Canada, under B.C.'s leadership, have united in their commitment to help the many Canadians who struggle with literacy skills every day. In April 2008, the CMEC Pan-Canadian Interactive Literacy Forum, a first-of-its-kind event, was simultaneously webcast to 3,000 participants at nine sites across Canada. is the information hub of CMEC's Literacy Action Plan, Literacy - More than Words. It contains important perspectives and information for anyone working to overcome literacy challenges.

"Education ministers across Canada are united in their goal of improving literacy skills for the nine million Canadians who struggle with low literacy. We have highlighted the importance of strong literacy skills and are now working aggressively in our communities to support our learners," said B.C. Minister of Education Shirley Bond. "The inspirational and informative materials in the Literacy Forum archives will provide an excellent resource to support local literacy efforts across the country." currently holds keynote presentations from leading Canadians in government, business, and literacy research such as:

- Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson
- Former Premier of New Brunswick Frank McKenna
- Canwest Global VP David Asper
- Early childhood development expert Dr. Fraser Mustard
- Adult literacy expert Dr. Paul BĂ©langer

Over the coming months, the site will grow to include more experiences and resources that were featured during the forum. Each of the participating sites focused its presentation on a key aspect of the literacy challenge: Aboriginal literacy, lifelong literacy, literacy and the workforce, building literacy in communities, and the economic benefits of literacy.

"Literacy is a priority for Canada's education ministers," said Kelly Lamrock, New Brunswick's Minister of Education and Chair of CMEC. "Through these forum archives, we are continuing this pan-Canadian dialogue on literacy and moving forward on the national literacy agenda."

The Literacy Forum archive collection will continue to grow throughout the summer to showcase highlights from many of the more than 100 literacy presentations and activities seen at the forum.

CMEC is an intergovernmental body composed of the ministers responsible for elementary-secondary and advanced education from the provinces and territories. Through CMEC, ministers share information and undertake projects in areas of mutual interest and concern.

PBS Launches Online Education Community for Pre-K-12 Educators

PBS today unveiled a new online community for preK-12 educators that supports the advancement of digital media content and technology integration in education. PBS Teachers Connect ( provides teachers, school library media specialists, technology coordinators, early childhood educators and other education professionals with opportunities to share ideas, collaborate and support the effective use of instructional technology and multimedia to enhance student learning.

The new online community is built around PBS Teachers (, the Web portal to the wide-ranging multimedia instructional resources and professional development services PBS offers preK-12 educators. At no cost, educators can search more than 3,000 standards-based classroom activities, lesson plans, interactive resources and other materials on the PBS Teachers Web site, then easily bookmark, annotate, share and manage their tagged content within the PBS Teachers Connect community. Many of the resources feature PBS' award-winning programming and content, including on-demand streaming video from select PBS programs.

PBS Teachers Connect will foster discussion and use of digital media content, and enable educators to form shared-interest groups online. The community features a personalized homepage for each user, enhanced user profiles, a searchable database of resources and community members, bookmarking tools and discussion threads. Additional online components, such as private messaging, community feeds, friend feeds, online events, and a digital media gallery, will be available this fall.

Through its nationwide network of local stations, PBS will extend the online interaction in PBS Teachers Connect into local school communities through face-to-face events. Educators across the country will be able to customize their homepages to receive local PBS station programming and event schedules as well as access a rich array of local education resources.

A key component of the PBS Teachers Connect offering is the PBS Teacher Leader program, which recognizes and rewards innovation in the use of digital media and technology in education. PBS Teacher Leaders will be an integral part of the online community's continued development by fostering discussion, collaboration and contribution of teacher-created content.

With the vast majority of students using social networking sites on a weekly basis, according to a recent report from the National School Board Association, more educators are incorporating social media tools in their professional lives to collaborate with and support each other. Community-building that once was confined to face-to-face encounters in school departments and association conferences, or informal contacts with like-minded staff members, is now increasingly happening online.

The power of Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, wikis and forums, enables educators to grow their network exponentially, connecting with teachers across the United States and around the world. Social networking in education opens doors to an unprecedented array of learning opportunities in an environment where educators often feel freer to express themselves, share their ideas and be catalysts for change.

For more information about PBS Teachers Connect, go to

Achieving Top Grades In Science Subjects More Difficult

School children studying science and technology subjects like Maths, Physics and Chemistry find it much harder to achieve the top exam grades than candidates of similar ability studying subjects like Media Studies and Psychology, according to a new report.

Durham University researchers analysed and compared data from nearly one million schoolchildren sitting GCSE and A-level exams and reviewed 28 different studies of cross subject comparison conducted in the UK since 1970.

They found significant differences in the relative difficulty of exams in different subjects with the sciences among the hardest. On average, subjects like Physics, Chemistry and Biology at A-level are a whole grade harder than Drama, Sociology or Media Studies, and three-quarters of a grade harder than English, RE or Business Studies.

A student who chooses Media Studies instead of English Literature could expect to improve their result by half a grade. Choosing Psychology instead of Biology would typically result in over half a grade's advantage. Preferring History to Film Studies, however, would cost you well over a grade at A-level.

The study found that these differences were consistent across different methods of calculation and were remarkably stable over time.

Durham University's analysis runs contrary to a report released by the exams regulator the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in February this year which found that some exams may be harder than others, but concluded that subjects were broadly in line and no immediate action was needed to even things out.

The researchers, from Durham University's Curriculum, Evaluation and Management (CEM) Centre publish their findings in a report commissioned by the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society on behalf of SCORE (Science Community Representing Education). .

Researchers voice concerns that students will be more likely to choose to study 'easier' subjects and will not opt to study science subjects that are desperately needed by employers in the knowledge economy.

They are calling for marking for 'harder' subjects to take account of their difficulty, perhaps introducing a 'scaling' system similar to that already used in Australia so that some subjects are acknowledged to be worth more than others.

The findings come 3 years after the UK Government vowed to improve the rapidly falling numbers of students taking Physics, Chemistry and Maths. Between 1991 and 2005 figures show the numbers of students sitting A Level Physics dropped by more than a third.

Report author, Dr Robert Coe, Deputy Director of Durham University's CEM Centre, said: "This research shows that science and technology subjects are much more severely graded than subjects like media studies and art. I can't see how anyone could claim that all A-levels are equally difficult. If universities and employers treat all grades as equivalent they will select the wrong applicants. A student with a grade C in Biology will generally be more able than one with a B in Sociology, for example.

"The current system provides a disincentive to schools to promote take up of sciences while league tables treat all subjects as equal.

"It also puts pressure on students to take particular subjects which may not be best educationally. I know students and schools will try to make the right choices, but we should have a system where the incentives support doing the right thing, not act against it."

However, the Russell Group of universities has warned that pupils at some state schools put themselves at a disadvantage for accessing top Universities by studying so-called "softer subjects" like drama, art and media studies. Cambridge University has already published a list of subjects that together provide a less effective preparation for degree studies and may be a bar to a successful application.

Source: Durham University

Freedom Writer Teachers to Write Follow-Up to New York Times' Best Seller

Educators from across the United States and Canada will come together this Friday in Newport Beach, California for the 2008 Freedom Writer Teachers Workshop. Last year, following the success of Paramount Pictures' "Freedom Writers," starring Hilary Swank as Erin Gruwell, based on the book The Freedom Writers Diary, by Erin Gruwell and her students, the Foundation launched a teacher-training program to provide best practice and collaboration opportunities for teachers whose students span demographic lines.

Southwest Airlines donated 150 roundtrip airline tickets for educators across the country to attend the Institute and learn innovative techniques to take back to their classrooms.

"This will be a powerful and unifying event for the Foundation, our teachers, their schools, and -- most importantly -- their students. The Summer Workshop is an opportunity for all Freedom Writer Teachers to build on all the strategies we have taught them," said Erin Gruwell.

With their editor's help, the Freedom Writer Teachers will begin editing and collaborating on their collective classroom stories, set to be published by Broadway Books in the upcoming The Freedom Writer Teachers Diary. With assistance from Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, each Freedom Writer Teacher will be surprised with a HP Mini-Note PC loaded with Microsoft Vista Business, Microsoft Office Ultimate with OneNote and Windows Live, to use for their writing and collaboration.

The network of 150 educators has proven to be an invaluable resource for teachers like Connie Heerman, a Freedom Writer Teacher who was suspended for a year and a half for passing out copies of The Diary to her students in Indiana. Recent coverage of Heerman's case on CNN and Newsweek has prompted a grassroots movement to get The Freedom Writers Diary on approved reading lists across the country. "We are inspired by the outpouring of support from people across the world," said Gruwell.

John Tu, CEO of Kingston Technology, was so impressed by the Freedom Writer Teachers network that he is sponsoring the July Workshop hosted at the Newport Beach Marriott this weekend.


Summer Reading Recommendations for Adults

A random survey of Boston University (BU) professors yielded a wide and rich variety of summer reading recommendations for adults, ranging from Randy Pausch's inspirational "The Last Lecture," to Suze Rotolo's firsthand account of Bob Dylan and the new music scene, "A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties."

Reflecting the diversity of 17 schools and colleges that comprise the nation's fourth largest private institution, the suggestions from representatives from multiple departments include new releases (Scott McClellan's "What Happened") as well as personal favorites "Zen Golf" by Joseph Parent), and run the gamut from serious to entertaining:

School of Management Dean Louis E. Lataif
"The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable" by Nassim Nicholas
"Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game" by Joseph Parent

College of Engineering, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Catherine Klapperich
"And Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris
"The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery" by D.T. Max
"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon
"Gardens of Water" by Alan Drew

College of Arts and Sciences Assistant Professor of Biology Karen Warkentin
"Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin
"Bloodchild & Other Stories" by Octavia Butler.
"Friday Next and Nursery Crime" both part of a crime series by Jasper Fforde

College of Arts and Sciences Professor and Chair of Computer Science, Stan Sclaroff
"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz.
"Babel-17" by Samuel R Delany.
"Call Me by Your Name" by Andre Aciman.

College of Arts and Sciences & Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, David H. Barlow, Ph.D
"Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri
"The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch
"Two Years in St. Andrews" by George Peper
"Fatal Forecast" by Michael Tougias
"Fall of Frost" by Brian Hall

College of Communications Dean Thomas Fiedler
"What Happened," by Scott McClellan
"Good Guys & Bad Guys," by Joe Nocera
"Downhill Lies," Carl Hiaasen

School of Public Health Dean Robert Meenan
"The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon

Environmental Health Professor and SPH Chair Emeritus David Ozonoff
"Nixonland" by Rich Perlstein
"The Stillborn God" by Mark Lilla
"Microcosm" by Carl Zimmer
"The Spies of Warsaw" by Alan Furst
"The Shield of Achilles" by Philip Bobbitt
"A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties" by Suze Rotolo

SPH Department Chair and Professor of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights George Annas
"Armageddon in Retrospect" Kurt Vonnegut

School of Medicine Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics Caroline Apovian, M.D.
"Independence Day" by Richard Ford
"The Lay of the Land" by Richard Ford
"American Pastoral" by Philip Roth
"I Married a Communist" by Philip Roth
"The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory
"The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold
"Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd

Medical Center Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, Lawrence Chin, M.D.
"Sailing Alone Around the Room" (poetry) by Billy Collins.
"Heat" by Bill Buford
"The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell
"Solaris" by Stanislaw Lem
"Jesus' Son" by Denis Johnson
"In Persuasion Nation" by George Saunders
"Saturday" by Ian McEwan
"Bangkok 8" by John Burdett
"Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn
"Underworld" by Don DeLillo

Source: Boston University

Growth in California Grants Benefiting Communities of Color

As the diversity of California's population continues to grow, a new Foundation Center analysis of grantmaking by 50 of the state's largest independent foundations finds that at least 39 percent of California-focused grants benefited populations of color. According to the report, "Embracing Diversity: Foundation Giving Benefiting California's Communities of Color," in 2005 alone, these 50 California-based foundations awarded a minimum of 2,700 grants totaling nearly $300 million to support health, education, social services, and other programs that serve ethnically or racially diverse populations. In addition, 10-year trends show that giving benefiting these populations grew nearly twice as fast as overall giving between 1996 and 2005.

The report, commissioned by a group of regional grantmaker associations (Northern California Grantmakers, ; Southern California Grantmakers, ; and San Diego Grantmakers,, provides a comprehensive estimate of the extent to which communities of color are being served by foundation giving in California.

"Most of the data previously available has undercounted the level of philanthropic giving that benefits ethnic communities," said Larry McGill, senior vice president for research at the Foundation Center and the primary author of the study. "This report provides a more complete picture about the level of investment made by foundations to help California's diverse populations."

Key findings from the report include:

- At least 39 percent of domestically focused grants and 33 percent of domestically focused grant dollars awarded by 50 of the largest independent California-based foundations (all with assets in 2005 of at least $100 million) primarily benefited populations of color. The level of giving is considered to be a conservative estimate and researchers believe the numbers may be even higher.

- Most grants intended to benefit the economically disadvantaged also served populations of color, even if they were not explicitly targeted to benefit such populations. An estimated 75 percent of grants meant for low-income populations also served communities of color.

- Among a group of nearly 100 large independent California foundations, domestic giving explicitly targeted to serve populations of color increased by 177 percent between 1996 and 2005 (adjusted for inflation), while domestic giving overall increased by 98 percent. At the same time, domestic giving targeted by these foundations to benefit the economically disadvantaged increased 236 percent.

- Grants explicitly targeted to serve populations of color were overwhelmingly concentrated in the health area, reflecting the grantmaking priorities of large foundations such as the California Endowment and the California Wellness Foundation.

While the study found that at least 39 percent of California-focused grants benefited populations of color, McGill noted that it should not be inferred that the other 61 percent of domestically focused grants benefit white populations only: "All that can be said about these grants is that specific information about the demographic characteristics of the populations they are intended to serve is unavailable. Many, in fact, may not be targeted to serve specific populations at all; rather, they may be intended to support activities ranging from scientific research to environmental preservation. And to the extent that some of these grants are intended to benefit the general public, they may also benefit Californians of all backgrounds."

"The state's foundation leaders are committed to improving the lives of communities of color, and, for that matter, all Californians," said Colin Lacon, president of Northern California Grantmakers. "And foundations will continue to support efforts that address the underlying challenges and problems facing diverse populations in our state."

The report can be downloaded at no charge from the Gain Knowledge area of the Foundation Center's web site .

Sylvan Dell Publishing Announces Educational Resource Grant

Children's book publisher Sylvan Dell has passionately pursued its mission of "bringing science and math to children through literature." Now, they are reaching out to schools and school districts nationwide with an unprecedented educational resource grant offer.

The grant is for a free, one-year site license, providing unlimited access to all 35 Sylvan Dell eBooks, featuring flipviewer technology with selectable English and Spanish text and audio. The license can be used on all school computers and may be placed on secure school websites, enabling students and their families to log in and have access from their homes.

Grants will be awarded to one elementary school per district and are open to every district in the United States. To facilitate submission, individual schools may submit the grant application directly. When more than one school from a single district applies, Sylvan Dell will ask the district contact to make the selection.

An easy online grant application is available at:

Sylvan Dell picture books with science, math and nature themes excite children's imaginations through fun stories, vibrant artwork and a 3-5 page "For Creative Minds" educational section in the back of each book. But that is just the start…what really makes the books unique, is their tremendous amount of free, online educational material available for cross-curricular learning, including: 30-80 page Teaching Activities, Interactive Reading and Math Quizzes, and much more.

They have 57 authors and illustrators on the Sylvan Dell team and their 35 titles have been honored as nominees, finalists, or winners of more than 50 book awards. Sylvan Dell eBooks are wonderful for use with in-classroom projection or interactive whiteboards (Smartboards) and are ideal for Spanish language classes and ESL students at all grade levels.

Self-Help Medical Book Written at 3rd Grade Reading Level

"What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick," written by two registered nurses frustrated with the typical 11th grade reading level of most patient education materials, recently reached a 2 million copies sold mark since the book's initial publication in 2000. This milestone was made possible in part because of the ongoing search for a solution to rising healthcare costs. It's estimated that low health literacy adds $73 billion annually to U.S. health care costs in unnecessary medical expenses.

Employers and health plans are paying an ever increasing price for healthcare, and "What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick" is emerging as a viable solution to reduce unwarranted Emergency Room and doctor/clinic visits. Health plans have also recognized the value of providing their members with an in-home self-help healthcare book that helps maintain the good health of their member's children.

A big customer has been the First 5 California program which includes the book in its "Kit For New Parents," made available to every new parent in the state. "'What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick' is a valuable addition to our 'Kit For New Parents,'" said Kris Perry, Executive Director of First 5 California. "From sore throats to nose bleeds, this guide provides solutions to common health problems in an easy-to-understand manner that parents will appreciate."

"The continued success of this book shows it is really making a difference out there for the consumer and as well as those who deliver health care," said Gloria Mayer, R.N., Ed.D., who co-authored the book with Ann Kuklierus, R.N. The book is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese (Mandarin) and Korean.

Copies of "What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick," published by the La Habra-based not-for-profit Institute for Healthcare Advancement, have been sold or distributed nationally and internationally. The book has been hailed by clinicians as the "Holy Grail" of health care reference books and has been used in multiple studies to measure how emergency room overuse can be reduced with simple self-help tools that are written in easy-to-understand language. The most recent results from the UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Institute's four year outcome study have shown parents and caregivers who use "What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick" have reduced their Emergency Room visits by 58% and doctor/clinic visits by 41%. The book has also won numerous awards for its trailblazing efforts in improving health literacy.

Studies have shown 90 million American adults (approximately one in two) cannot read above a fifth grade level. To help these low level readers, the books presents more than 50 common health problems, from childhood ailments such as earaches, vomiting and colic, to how to handle more serious problems such as burns, choking, and broken bones. Each medical problem is presented in a logical, step-by-step-format, i.e., "What is it?, What do I see?, What can I do at home?, When do I call the doctor or nurse?, and What else should I know?" The narrative is supported with over 150 lifelike illustrations allowing readers, and even non-readers, to quickly understand the information and take action. Instead of medical jargon the book uses simple language such as "yellow" newborn rather than "jaundiced" newborn and words like "broken bone" instead of "fracture" in describing medical conditions.

"People with limited healthcare knowledge struggle every day to understand doctors and nurses who talk in medical jargon, and they generally avoid reading medical reference books because they are too difficult to understand," explained Mayer. "This book empowers parents to take charge of their children's health by giving them practical information and delivering it in a way that is easy for them to read, understand and apply."

The Institute for Healthcare Advancement is a La Habra-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering people to better health. The Institute is nationally recognized for its efforts in health literacy and provides healthcare information through its various publishing efforts, the Internet, and its renowned local and national education programs. For more information, go to, or call toll-free (800) 434-4633.

Literacy Crisis in American Workforce Readiness

A study from a blue ribbon panel calling for sweeping changes in adult literacy and basic education programs "deserves urgent attention from Congress and the new administration," said David C. Harvey, president and CEO of ProLiteracy, the nation's largest adult literacy organization.

"We applaud this critically important study at a time when the U.S. economy is hurting, a debate is raging about the role of immigrants in the U.S. workforce, and unemployment is on the rise," Harvey said. "With 30 million adults in immediate need of literacy and adult basic education, the U.S. is at risk of becoming a second-rate economy."

The report, Reach Higher, America: Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, is the result of two years of study by the National Commission on Adult Literacy, an independent panel of leaders from labor, business, government, education, literacy, and philanthropy. The report recommends new legislation to provide reading, writing, math, and English language instruction to people who are unemployed, low-skilled workers, immigrants, and high school dropouts. It recommends that Congress commit $20 billion by the year 2020.

"ProLiteracy urges that any such legislative reform address the needs of adults across the continuum of adult literacy and basic education -- from the very newest readers to those who are struggling to earn a GED or ready to transition to a community college or vocational program," Harvey said.

The most recent survey of adult literacy skills in the United States indicated that 30 million people over age 16 have difficulty with daily tasks such as reading directions on a medicine bottle or understanding the main facts in a short newspaper article. The effects of low literacy ripple throughout the U.S. economy and impact health care costs, children's literacy, and crime.

"Many adults who are most in need of literacy and basic education services are outside the workforce, but they need to read to make good health and financial decisions, too," Harvey said. "ProLiteracy will work to make sure there is support for adult literacy and basic education programs that serve every adult who needs them."

Reaction from David C. Harvey, President/CEO, ProLiteracy Worldwide to Reach Higher, America: Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, the report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy:

"It's about time the issue of adult low literacy and its crippling affect on all aspects of life in the U.S. is getting the attention it deserves. Recommending change is one thing, however, and implementing change is another. The real test of this country's commitment to a crisis not just in our workforce, but in our communities, and in families as well will be what happens in the follow-up -- drafting legislation and then stewarding that proposed bill through Congress and the appropriations process. ProLiteracy will do everything it can to support implementing change."

"There's a great deal in this report for ProLiteracy to support -- more money for programs, more adult learners getting instruction, Pell grants so adult learners can move on to college, incentives to businesses that help incumbent workers get basic instruction. ProLiteracy is ready and willing to do what it can to help make these things happen; however, there are some recommendations that need some additional thought and more discussion so that we don't lose the good work and lessons learned by the existing network of people and programs who have been working with adult learners for years. For example:

-- The Commission calls for a "redefining" of the fundamentals of adult education and setting standards for teachers -- who will be involved in creating the language and standards for these? ProLiteracy supports representation from all types and sizes of adult education and literacy service providers, not just those programs receiving state and federal funds.

-- Will focusing on the needs of the unemployed and measurements based on numbers of GEDs earned, adult learners admitted to college, or jobs obtained make it more difficult for those outside the workforce to get instruction; the grandfather who wants to learn to read a bedtime story to his grandchild, for example, or the elderly woman who wants to make an informed decision in the voting booth? ProLiteracy considers reading, writing, and math skills to be basic human rights and necessities for success in today's world.

"ProLiteracy offers to assist those continuing the Commission's work to ensure that a new adult education system meets the needs of adult learners at all levels -- from those not yet ready to prepare for a GED to those transitioning into college -- and that there be fair and equitable access to resources for the many different programs that serve them."

"ProLiteracy certainly supports the Commission's recommendations that call for expanding services so more students can be served -- as long as programs can be supported with the financial resources and qualified instructors they'll need to meet new demand.""

"We support the use of Pell Grants to support adult learners' efforts to further their education and earn the postsecondary degrees that are critical to getting jobs in today's environment that pay a living wage."

"ProLiteracy supports the Commission's recommendations that incentives be given employers who provide basics skills training for incumbent workers. Our network of local literacy providers are ready, willing, and able to work with employers in their communities to help workers gain the skills they need to do the jobs they have today and to prepare for the jobs that will need to be filled tomorrow, but we often find that we can't engage the employers in such programs. It is our hope that tax credits, using unemployment insurance tax money to fund employer-based programs, and matching grants to groups of employers with similar needs will encourage business and industry to partner with adult literacy programs for everyone's benefit."

For more information, go to and

New World Book Aids in Differentiated Learning

All students need reliable reference tools and World Book has introduced World Book Discover (, a new resource designed specifically to meet the needs of students who read below the level of their peers. This latest addition to the World Book Web provides content, tools, and features to help bridge the achievement gap and support differentiated instruction.

"Teachers, librarians, and other educators asked us for a product like World Book Discover to help their struggling readers participate in class assignments and find the information they need presented at an appropriate level," said Patti Ginnis, chief marketing officer of World Book. This is a reference tool that has real-world application. There are many groups of students reading below grade level, including those with limited English proficiency, struggling readers, those with a disability, and adult literacy students. We're working hard to ensure that World Book Discover will help meet their needs."

Individuals that can benefit from differentiated learning resources include the more than 60 percent of high school students the National Assessment of Adult Literacy has found read at the basic or below basic level and the more than 20 percent of adults in the U.S. that read at or below the fifth-grade reading level as determined by the National Institute for Literacy. Additionally, the National Assessment of Educational Progress identified that nearly four million students received English language learner services in 2005, indicating a growing demand for differentiated learning among non-native English speakers.

Unique Features Geared to Specific Needs of Differentiated Learners

Among the key features of World Book Discover are its easy-to-read articles on topics that interest older students accompanied by reading comprehension questions to help readers focus on key concepts. A text-to-speech feature allows students to hear text read aloud, also increasing comprehension.

For visual learners, World Book Discover includes a visual dictionary with text in English, Spanish, and French along with World Book Explains, a searchable video series that features experts from NASA, Disney, Sea World, the National Park Service, Carnegie Hall, and other notable institutions answering students' questions on various topics from how big the galaxy is to how dolphins communicate. For students who may be more comfortable in a language other than English, World Book Discover includes text-translation capabilities in more than a dozen languages.

Another unique feature of World Book Discover is a comprehensive section focused on life skills, covering such topics as buying and maintaining a car, applying for a job, budgeting, arranging housing, and understanding health care issues.