Océ Helps Aspiring Authors Get Into Print

Nearly 100 proud parents, school officials, teachers, authors and local dignitaries gathered recently at the City of Boca Raton's Spanish River Library and Community Center to witness 45 middle and high school students from 15 different School District of Palm Beach County schools realize their dreams to become published authors. 

The students participated in the third annual Océ Future Authors Project summer writing workshop, where they compiled poetry, short stories and essays into a book they named, "Confessions of a Teenage Author." The book was published and digitally printed by the program's sponsor, Boca Raton-based Océ North America Production Printing Systems Division, a leading provider of digital document management and delivery solutions. The Océ Digital Book Solution, a combination of Océ VarioStream's 8000 printers and Océ PRISMA workflow software, was used to print the book.

Océ created this free program in partnership with the School District of Palm Beach County, and with support this year from the BankAtlantic Foundation and the Lawrence Sanders Foundation. During the eight-day workshop, the students learned about writing, editing, and digital book publishing. Certified teachers provided instruction, with additional insight provided by Océ executives and published authors, Margaret Ahnert, James O. Born, Jonathon King, Ray Gosa, Sally Ling and Dr. Laurence Miller.

"Public-private partnerships like this one are absolutely essential for enriching educational experiences to our students at a time when our schools are facing cutbacks," said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Constance Tuman-Rugg. "We salute Océ and the other sponsors for such a valuable contribution to education."

Océ executives predict that digital book printing and publishing technology will open up more opportunities for aspiring writers. "Digital printing technology for books is revolutionizing the industry and fueling trends like self-publishing, creating exciting opportunities for new talent—like these young, aspiring authors—to pursue their dreams," said Océ Vice President of Marketing Services Sheryl Pattek. "We are proud to support the Océ Future Authors Project and to help make students' dreams a reality."

Digital printing has changed the business model at every point in the value chain, as book manufacturers, publishers, retailers and even end users benefit from reduced costs and faster turnaround. Top digital book manufacturers rely on Océ digital print solutions as part of their publishing platforms. Océ has achieved significant penetration within the fast-growing digital book manufacturing market, with a presence in leading publishing operations. On demand digital printing also extends the life cycle of books, creating more revenue for publishers and helping readers get the books they want. From the publisher's viewpoint, there is no difference in quality between digitally produced and conventionally produced books. The advantage comes from the substantially lower level of capital that publishers have to keep tied up in inventory, and the reduced costs for inventory management.

For more information about the Océ Future Authors Project, visit www.oceusa.com/futureauthors

Everybody Wins! To Pilot New Reading And Literacy Programs

The nonprofit literacy and mentoring organization called EVERYBODY WINS! is introducing new reading and literacy programs designed to reach the most disadvantaged children in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville area of Brooklyn.

Designed to engage families and members of the community in reading to reinforce the importance of literacy in children's lives, the programs will be provided through its new "Family Read" project and piloted at P.S. 260 Breuckelen School and P.S. 298 Dr. Betty Shabazz School.

"EVERYBODY WINS! is thrilled to bring our reading and literacy programs to children and their families in one of New York's most underserved communities," said Deborah L. Seidel, executive director of EVERYBODY WINS! "The Family Read project encourages children and their parents to find joy in reading and at the same time builds and enhances their literacy skills. We look forward to learning from this pilot and developing a model for programs that can be replicated in underserved communities throughout the country."

The Family Read project will engage parents as reading mentors in the Breuckelen School and Dr. Betty Shabazz School; provide ongoing parent training and support; increase school library resources; provide books for children to take home; and feature special in-school literacy events.

EVERYBODY WINS! enlisted Dr. Kathleen Cashin, former superintendent of District 23 and CEO of the Knowledge Network Learning Support Organization, to design the programs for parent outreach and training and to assist in the programs' implementation in schools.

"This program will have a dual focus; we will improve the literacy of our children through oral read-alouds and shared reading, while improving the literacy of caring adults who are trained to implement the instructional strategies with these children," said Dr. Cashin.

The Family Read project is funded by a generous grant from University of Phoenix, which will also collaborate with EVERYBODY WINS! and the Knowledge Network Learning Support Organization to design and build the programs' training modules, supply online and library resources, and provide community outreach.

"We are honored to be working with EVERYBODY WINS! and Dr. Cashin at the Knowledge Network Learning Support Organization," said Ayla Dickey, University of Phoenix Vice President for Public Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility and the President of its Foundation. "Providing funding and resources to organizations that improve academic achievement, particularly at an early age, is a key part of our Foundation’s mission, and the Family Read project is set up and aimed toward meeting these important goals."

EVERYBODY WINS! paid tribute to University of Phoenix for their support of the Family Read project at a recent fundraising gala at New York’s Rainbow Room. Committed to increasing access to education for underrepresented and at-risk students, University of Phoenix funds programs that promote school-readiness, improve educational opportunities and increase the rate of college and advanced degrees for these historically underserved students.

EVERYBODY WINS! seeks to prepare disadvantaged children for the complex world they will face with programs that focus on the most basic and necessary skill-- the ability to read well. A leading nonprofit literacy and mentoring organization since 1991, EVERYBODY WINS! pairs caring adult volunteers with children in elementary schools for weekly reading aloud and conversation. The mission is to reach children while they are young, stimulate their interest in reading for pleasure, and encourage them to believe that they can succeed in school and ultimately, in life.

Website: www.everybodywinsNY.org

Make Money This Holiday: Do You Qualify for AFSA's Scholarship Contest?

Whether Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, the holidays are a time of goodwill, cheer, and above all, giving. Therefore in the spirit of the season, the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) is spreading its goodwill and cheer by giving back to the community.

This Dallas-based trade group is calling for high school seniors to enter to win $20,000 in scholarships in its National Scholarship Contest, http://www.afsascholarship.org/. So with time off for the holidays, what better time for students to apply for scholarships, like AFSA's National Scholarship Contest, in hopes of winning one of life's most treasured gifts: an education?

More exciting than a Reindeer sweater, AFSA's National Scholarship Contest is the gift that keeps giving, guaranteed to give $20,000 this year, and that money can go a long way to put dreams of a further education within reach. Since 1996, AFSA has provided nearly a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships to help fulfill the educational dreams of students from across the nation.

This online contest is unlike many traditional scholarships. That's because instead of writing an essay, applicants will read one. That's right! To apply, students go online and read a short essay about sprinklers and fire safety. After finishing, they complete a ten-question quiz on what they just read. Each correct answer gives the student a chance at winning one of ten $2,000 scholarships (maximum 10 chances per entrant).

To be eligible, applicants must be a high school senior during the 2008-2009 academic year who will attend a U.S. college, university or trade school in fall 2009. Winners are randomly selected to receive a scholarship payable one-time directly to their respective institution of higher learning.

Year after year, students die in campus-related fires. Through this scholarship, AFSA hopes to create greater awareness - and therefore, a safer future - by educating students who otherwise may not recognize the importance of fire safety.

The AFSA Scholarship is open to U.S. citizens and legal residents. Deadline to entries is April 1, 2009.

Kidney Disease Patients with Poor Health Literacy are Less Likely to Receive Kidney Transplants

Kidney disease patients' ability to understand basic health information may have a significant impact on whether or not they will receive an organ transplant, according to a study appearing in the January 2009 issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN). The findings reveal an important disparity in access to care and point to the need for more standardized procedures for referring patients for transplantation.

Research has shown that people with poor health literacy have more difficulty understanding written health materials, processing oral instructions, and navigating health care environments than those with sufficient health literacy. The ability to obtain and understand health information to make appropriate health decisions may be particularly important for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), because preparing for kidney transplantation requires undergoing several steps, including keeping a number of appointments at different locations and following complicated instructions for several tests.

Few studies have examined health literacy among patients with CKD to see if it has an impact on care. To investigate the issue, Vanessa Grubbs, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco and her colleagues Steven E. Gregorich, MD, Eliseo J. Perez-Stable, MD, and Chi-yuan Hsu, MD, measured the health literacy of 62 dialysis patients aged 18 to 75 years and documented which patients were referred for a kidney transplant evaluation and which were placed on a kidney transplant wait list.

The researchers found that roughly one-third of patients had inadequate health literacy. Approximately three-quarters of the patients in the study were referred for a kidney transplant evaluation, 85% of whom were then wait-listed. Patients with inadequate health literacy were 78% less likely than patients with adequate health literacy to be referred for a transplant evaluation. Once patients were referred for transplant evaluation, health literacy level did not appear to affect who was put on a transplant wait list. However, it took slightly longer for patients with inadequate health literacy to be put on a wait list than patients with adequate health literacy (3.6 months vs 2.1 months).

The link between inadequate health literacy and lower likelihood of being referred for transplant evaluation may be due to various factors. For example, physicians may be less willing to refer patients who are perceived as less equipped to follow through with instructions that are important for maintaining the health of a transplanted kidney. Alternatively, certain health complications or patient uncertainties may play a role.

The authors concluded that inadequate health literacy is common among dialysis patients and can keep patients from being referred for a transplant evaluation. "Strategies to reduce the impact of health literacy on the kidney transplant process should be explored," they recommended.

This study was funded by the Clough Memorial Endowment Fund and the National Institutes of Health.

The article, entitled "Health Literacy and Access to Kidney Transplantation," appears online at http://cjasn.asnjournals.org and in the January 2009 print issue of the CJASN.

Learning By Blogging

Many students learn best working together on structured, self-directed projects. European researchers have created software that links student blogs and other social software tools into a virtual collaborative learning environment.

The researchers of iCAMP (Intercultural learning campus), a three-year project funded by the European Union, wanted to create software tools that would let university students and teachers work together on structured, self-directed learning projects no matter where they were or what kind of social networking systems they were using.

They believe that the tools and learning approaches iCAMP has pioneered have the potential to transform how institutions of higher education work.

"It could change higher education completely," says Barbara Kieslinger of the Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna, Austria, and iCAMP project coordinator. "If it would really take off, it would lead to a democratisation of these institutions."

Closing the learning-leisure gap

Kieslinger and her colleagues at more than a dozen universities across Europe set out to close the gap between existing educational software tools – usually rigidly structured and teacher-controlled – and the free-wheeling, self-directed social software students use in their spare time, such as blogs, messaging, feeds and other social networking services.

"We found a mismatch between what younger people were using in their leisure time, software that is easy to use and control by themselves, compared to centralised systems that are controlled by the organisation," Kieslinger says.

The iCAMP researchers were guided by an educational theory called constructivism. They believe that students gain new knowledge and skills most readily by working together with others on projects that they themselves define and manage, facilitated rather than controlled by teachers.

In addition to the specifics of what students learn, Kieslinger points out that iCAMP's approach prepares them to be more self directed, teamwork oriented, and technologically adept later in life.

"It's part of our responsibility to invite students to take control," says Kieslinger. "In the workplace, people need to be competent in self direction, social networking and collaboration in technologically mediated environments."

Better blogging and iLOGUE-ing

From early on, the researchers knew that weblogs would be one of their basic building blocks.

"Blogs are the most important single tool," says Kieslinger. "They are really easy to use, people like them, and they can be used in lots of different activities and learning environments."

The problem blogs presented was interoperability. Blogs generated on different systems were often not compatible, so students could not conveniently manage joint blogs or track and contribute to each other's blogs.

The iCAMP software developers found that support for interactions between blogs was essentially unavailable, creating a major roadblock to the kind of active networking students needed.

To solve this problem they developed FeedBack, a system that essentially lets blogs and bloggers communicate with each other easily and manage automatic feeds and updates smoothly.

Once they had resolved the interoperability problem, the researchers went on to create additional communication and collaboration tools. One of these tools is an open-source software package called iLOGUE.

The iLOGUE tool "scaffolds" self-directed learning by guiding learners through the steps of specifying a learning contract, setting goals and sub-goals, identifying resources, and maintaining a learning diary.

People start by entering their objectives and resources, Kieslinger says. They then maintain a conversational, reflective diary, and discuss their learning progress and problems with the facilitator and their peers.

"It's also a good instrument for self-assessment of what they've accomplished," she adds.

Positive feedback

The iCAMP researchers were eager to test their system in the real world. So far, they have carried out three trials with a total of 136 students and 19 facilitators in 10 countries, including many of Europe's new Member States. They are still analysing the results of their third and largest trial.

As one example, social science and computer science students studying quantitative research methods took on the task of designing an online questionnaire. The social science students shaped the content while the IT students developed the software.
"We got some really positive feedback from the students," says Kieslinger. "Even though it was more work for them, they liked the new techniques and getting to work with students from other countries."

The researchers now know that the tools they have developed work well, but also that the software alone does not guarantee success. Project facilitators need to be highly motivated and experienced in this novel approach to learning. In addition, resolving national and institutional differences in requirements, curricula, and even course scheduling turned out to be prerequisites for success.

Still, the iCAMP team are excited about the potential of their approach and software tools to create a rich, empowering and easy-to-use environment for interactive, student-driven learning.

Several universities in the east of Europe are already offering iCAMP-based courses.
"It's a more democratic way of using technology for teaching, where each learner can build his or her own learning environment and pick the tools needed for a specific learning task," says Kieslinger.

To promote further take-up, iCamp will publish a handbook this December presenting what the team has developed and discovered in the course of the project.
The iCAMP project received funding from the ICT strand of the Sixth Framework Programme for research.

Adapted from materials provided by ICT Results.

$20,000 Scholarship for High School Students

MoreThangrades.com has added three new show us why you are "More Than a Grade" scholarships. These scholarships are open to all high school students. The scholarships are themed based. Currently, there are three $1000 scholarships for creating a unique profile, a sports themed video, and a musical themed video. All a student has to do is film their talent and show why they are "More Than a Grade."

Starting January 1, 2009 MoreThanGrades will sponsor a $20,000 international scholarship for the best overall video in any category. The finalists will be chosen by MoreThanGrades members by popular vote. A students grades and their financial need will not be included in the judging process. For those who are looking for more traditional scholarships, check out our list corporate sponsored scholarships listed under Non-Morethangrades scholarships. Students can register at: http://www.morethangrades.com

Interlochen Arts Camp Accepting Applications for Summer 2009

Interlochen Arts Camp is now accepting applications for students interested in attending arts programs during the summer of 2009. Each year, more than 2,500 students from around the world attend summer programs at Interlochen, which are offered to students currently enrolled in grades three to twelve. Located in northwest Michigan, Interlochen Arts Camp offers summer programming in creative writing, dance, motion picture arts, music, theatre and visual arts. Program lengths run from one to six weeks.

Students can apply online or download a printable application by visiting Interlochen.org/camp. The priority application deadline is February 1, 2009 but early application is recommended because some programs fill quickly.

Interlochen Center for the Arts is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, the nation's highest honor in the arts. For more than 80 years, young artists from around the world have traveled to Interlochen to learn from leading artists, to be inspired by exceptional peers and for an experience in the arts that lasts a lifetime.

To help students, parents and teachers make an informed decision about their summer activities, Interlochen recently released a series of online videos that offer a closer look into the experience. The short videos feature clips of performances, student and parent interviews and more. New videos will be posted throughout the year.

Interlochen strives to make its programs affordable to all deserving students through financial aid. More than $1 million in scholarships and aid are distributed each summer. One such scholarship opportunity is the Emerson Scholarship program. Sponsored by the Louis-based Emerson Corporation, the program provides a full scholarship to exceptional high school orchestral musicians. The need for financial assistance should never discourage a student from applying to Interlochen.

New this year to the campus of Interlochen Center for the Arts is the Herbert H. and Barbara C. Dow Center for Visual Arts. The 36,000 square-foot building includes a 1,600 square foot gallery and eight studio spaces for digital arts, photography, printmaking, fiber arts, metals, sculpture, ceramics and painting and drawing.

Certain Skills Are Predictors Of Reading Ability In Young Children

A new study in the journal Learning Disabilities Research & Practice reveals that differences found between pre-kindergarten reading-disabled children and their typically reading peers diminish in various measures by pre-first grade, with the exception of phonological awareness abilities.

Susan Lambrecht Smith, Kathleen A. Scott, Jenny Roberts, and John L. Locke assessed children's alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness (known as the conscious sensitivity to the sound structure of language), and rapid naming skills at the beginning of kindergarten and again prior to first grade as a function of later reading outcomes.

Results show that prior to kindergarten, children with reading disabilities were distinguished from their typically developing reading counterparts by their performance on tasks of letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and rapid naming skills. However, between these groups, only differences in skills related to phonological awareness persisted beyond the kindergarten year.

Measures of phonological awareness distinguished the reading disabled group from the control group at Pre-K and Pre-1. These results are consistent with observations that phonological awareness is a strong predictor of reading disability in both children at general risk and genetic risk of reading difficulty.

"Our findings have implications not only for initial assessment and identification, but also for how progress in early literacy skills is viewed," the authors conclude.

Source: Medical News Today

Super Stars Literacy Receives $15,000 Grant

Super Stars Literacy (SSL) has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF). EBCF selected the award-winning after-school program to receive the funds, in part, because its early literacy and social development programming speaks directly to one of the greatest needs EBCF identified in local communities: ensuring very young children are successful in the education system.

"Year-after-year, Super Stars Literacy has had an amazing impact on improving the early literacy skills and social development of the students we serve," commented Super Stars Literacy Executive Director Mike Mowery. "This grant is proof of the strength of that success, and will help enable Super Stars Literacy's expansion into new communities so that even more young students from throughout Oakland and the East Bay can gain the literacy and social skills that are integral to success in the classroom, and beyond."

For the 2008-09 school year, Super Stars Literacy, Inc. tripled the number of students and school sites benefiting from its curriculum. Currently serving six school sites and 270 students in Oakland, Calif., Super Stars Literacy is now on the verge of an exciting new strategic planning phase, the results of which will guide its continued expansion to additional deserving children throughout the Bay Area. The EBCF funds will directly support after-school programming, including the maintenance of a low instructor-to-student ratio, which is integral to successfully building the literacy skills and emotional resiliency of Super Stars Literacy students.

Designed to directly combat studies suggesting children, especially those from low socio-economic backgrounds who are not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade are at serious risk of never developing strong academic skills or graduating from high school, Super Stars Literacy curriculum builds early literacy and social skills in students from underserved communities. Since its founding in 2002, the program has achieved outstanding results in meeting, and often exceeding, its goal of having 80 percent of its students read at grade-level as they enter the third grade.

The East Bay Community Foundation (www.eastbaycf.org) connects community needs in Alameda and Contra Costa counties with individuals, families and organizations interested in charitable giving.

Dedicated to building early literacy skills in primary grade children in communities with limited resources, Super Stars Literacy (www.SuperStarsLiteracy.org) currently serves 270 students at six Oakland, Calif., elementary schools.

Youth Writing Contest Offers Free Computer as Prize

From Us 2 Us Magazine has launched a writing contest that will give a student in their area the chance to win a free computer. Contestants are to visit their website and submit stories via the site. Submitted stories will be judged on the 15th of January for the award just in time for Christmas. The submissions should be a story 3-5 paragraphs's long and should be related to someone in the local community (preferably the youth) involved in sports. The winner will be announced via the company's website and blog located at http://us2us.haasports.net or http://fromus2us.blogspot.com.

From Us 2 Us magazine is a youth sports magazine focused on celebrating today's youth and will feature several of the stores in their upcoming issues. There is no limit to the number of submission a contestant can make but each should include the full contact information of the writing for proper notification once a decision is made.

International Children's Digital Library Signs Historic Agreement With Google

The International Children's Digital Library (ICDL) (http://www.childrenslibrary.org/), which is the world's largest collection of children's literature available freely on the Internet, has signed an agreement with Google to augment its vast collection of public domain children's literature with public domain titles digitized using Google's state-of-the-art scanning technology. The result will be the addition of potentially thousands of scanned, searchable children's books to the ICDL. As part of the agreement, the ICDL and Google will share their public domain titles making them available via the ICDL and Google's Book Search.

The ICDL joins company with 28 other prestigious Google Book Library Project Partners but unlike these large state-of-the-art library systems, the ICDL is a small innovative non-profit that leverages technology to emphasize the pedagogical and unifying components of children's literature through a user interaction that was designed by children from around the world. And, unlike its other 28 partners, the ICDL owns no books.

"Digitizing books is our single largest expense in providing free exemplary literature to children the world over," said Tim Browne, Director of the International Children's Digital Library. "Our relationship with Google is significant in that it catapults us forward light years in terms of scale. The Google scanning technology is best-of-breed and we are thrilled to have access to the technology as well as Google's existing collections.

The ICDL is the most recent library to partner with Google Book Search.

Web Site for Students' Work

The Detroit Free Press is providing a new forum for student journalists at 14 Detroit high schools to house their works. It's called http://www.freephigh.com/ .

"We wanted to take our high school journalism program to a new height by adding an online component," said program coordinator Erin L. Hill. "It's not enough to know how to write well. Students need to take photos, shoot videos and submit stories for the Web from their cars if they have to."

The Web site for the program, sponsored by the Free Press and Ford Motor Co., soon will offer photo galleries, videos and polls. Readers also can access the site from cell phones.

Courtnee James, a senior at Cass Tech and co-editor of the school's paper, is excited about that.

"It's reaching more to the youth, rather than just being a regular newspaper," she said. "It may seem easier to just pick up the paper, but to us, it's easier to go to the Internet on your phone and just click it."

Nancy Andrews, managing editor of digital media at the Free Press, said the online component will help prepare aspiring journalists for the profession.

"These students need to give people information when they want it and how they want it," she said. "We're excited to have the Free Press and Ford provide students with three options -- a full-color print edition, a desktop online edition and a mobile edition."

Jacqueline Clark, adviser for Southeastern High's paper, believes the changes will increase reading among students.

"I am not surprised that we are going online because from the beginning, the Free Press always looked for ways to improve," she said.

Illiterate Adults Can Benefit from USALearns.org

The U.S. Department of Education today launched U.S.A. Learns, a free Web site to help immigrants learn English. The Web site, which is located at http://www.usalearns.org/, provides approximately 11 million adults who have low levels of English proficiency with easily accessible and free English language training.

Launch of the site completes one of the goals in President Bush's Aug. 10, 2007, announcement of 26 immigration reforms that his Administration would pursue within existing law -- including the assimilation of new citizens and helping immigrants learn English to expand their opportunities in America. Recognizing that "[k]nowledge of English is the most important component of assimilation" and "an investment in tools to help new Americans learn English will be repaid many times over," the Administration pledged to launch a free, Web-based portal to help immigrants learn English.

U.S.A. Learns offers the following features:

An easily accessible Internet learning tool;

Simple directions;

Free instructional materials developed to teach basic English skills and help adults improve their English proficiency; and

Learning modules that can be used outside a traditional classroom

Upon entering the site, users can choose directions in either English or Spanish and then pick which English level they need -- beginner or intermediate. Once in the modules, the instruction is almost exclusively in English. In the beginner course, 20 units are offered in such areas as numbers, the calendar, places to go, families, schools, clothes, money and shopping. For intermediate students, more challenging exercises can help them further their existing English reading and writing skills.

The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy documented that as many as 11 million adults in the U.S. are not literate in English. Currently, local and state providers have the ability to serve only approximately one million of those learners annually, prompting the need for a Web site of this kind to offer to adults seeking easily accessible English literacy training.

Essay Contest for California High School Juniors, Seniors on 'Teen Cell Phone Ban'

The rules of the road have changed for teenagers who want to text message or talk on their cell phone while driving, and high school juniors and seniors can sound off about it.

The LegiSchool Project, a civic education collaborative between Sacramento State's Center for California Studies and the California Legislature, is seeking entries for its annual essay contest. This year's topic is "Rules of the Road: The Teen Cell Phone Ban." The contest is open to 11th and 12th grade students in California high schools.

Ten essayists will be selected to win round-trip travel to Sacramento to participate in LegiSchool's 13th annual Legislative Summit on April 2, 2009. At the Summit, winners will participate in a student-run press conference at the State Capitol with members of the Capitol Press Corps and legislative staff and a complimentary lunch at the Capitol.

The essay topic was prompted by Senate Bill 33, signed into law by the governor, which banned drivers under the age of 18 from all cell phone use - both talking and text messaging - while driving. Supporters of the measure relied on key studies to argue their case for the ban, such as the Ford Motor Company study which indicated teens are four times more likely to be distracted by cell phone use than adults. However, some studies show that it is not the holding of the phone that is distracting, but the conversation itself.

Students should address the following questions in their essays: Do you agree or disagree with this law? Why or why not? How has this law had an impact on you and your driving skills? Has this law been effective in creating better teen drivers?

Essays must be 750 words or less, typed and double spaced and include a cover sheet with the student's name, home address, phone number and e-mail, the name and address of the student's school and the name of the teacher who announced the contest. Entries must be postmarked by January 23, 2009 and submitted to: California State University, Sacramento; Center for California Studies, LegiSchool Project; 6000 J Street; Sacramento, CA 95819-6081.

For more information, visit http://www.csus.edu/legischool

Helping Children Of Immigrant Families Succeed In The Classroom

Children of immigrants who enter school with low math and reading skills have a better chance of catching up with their peers if they attend a school with high-performing students, well-supported teachers and services to families of English as a second language (ESL) children, according to a new study.

Previous studies show the importance of family resources in children's academic performance, said researcher Wen-Jui Han, PhD, of Columbia University. Now, this study, appearing in the November issue of Developmental Psychology published by the American Psychological Association, shows that aspects of the school environment are just as important for immigrant children, especially those children lacking resources at home.

Many children from immigrant families attend public schools with a generally low-performing student body, inadequate teaching materials and crowded classrooms, said Han. "The majority of these students come into school with reading, writing and math disadvantages. Schools with lower concentrations of minority students, better-performing students school-wide and ESL programs for both students and their parents offer a chance for these children to close the gap in reading and math achievement scores among their peers."

Han examined 14,000 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey-Kindergarten Cohort to determine school's role in shaping the academic performance of children of immigrants compared with native-born non-Hispanic white children. The children were tracked from kindergarten through third grade.

The immigrant students and families studied were from Latin American countries, Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries and Asian countries and represented about 12 percent of all the children and families in the study. Of this group, 66 percent were from Latin American countries with half coming from Mexico. The native-born non-Hispanic white children made up more than half of the total sample. Immigrant status was assigned if the child or at least one of the parents was born outside the United States and native status was assigned if both the child and parents were born in the United States.

Factors examined to determine their influence on academic performance included school resources (types of schools, percentage of poor or minority students, availability of English-as-a-second-language programs and services to students and parents), average student academic performance, and support provided to teachers and school safety.

Parents' education expectations, participation in school events and home learning activities were also examined.

Children's reading and math achievement were assessed in the fall and spring of kindergarten, the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade

According to the study, children of immigrants who attended schools with good resources improved their reading and math scores faster than their non-Hispanic white peers, narrowing their initial score gap and sometimes surpassing them by third grade. This was especially true for children from Mexican and Cuban families. Children from Central American families improved their math scores while children of immigrants from Asian countries (except Vietnam/Thailand/Cambodia/Laos) showed declining growth in reading scores during this time period. This slower learning pace by children from East Asian and Indian families narrowed the reading gap slightly with their native-born white peers, although children from most Asian regions had higher reading and math scores from kindergarten to third grade.

Children of Asian immigrants usually have stronger family influences that help them in school, explained Han. "They aren't as affected by the school factors as the other immigrant children from Latin American and Southeast Asia countries," he said. "Furthermore, those children from Thailand, Cambodia or Laos are from families with high poverty rates, which set them apart from other children of immigrants from Asia and show why, in part, children of Vietnam/Thailand/Cambodia/Laos responded more to school environments."

These results show the importance of school resources for students' academic progress, said Han, especially services and programs for ESL families. These services include having translators available for parent-teacher conferences, providing translations of written communications, using outreach workers to help families to enroll children, and making home visits. Children's academic performance is likely to be stable after the third grade, said Han, and "success in the third grade is a good indicator of future school success so this is a crucial time period to make changes and offer resources."

This project was funded by the Foundation for Child Development Young Scholars program.

Source: American Psychological Association

Nimble Press launches an online community for grant seekers

Each year, teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money on classroom materials. As budget cuts hit classrooms and personal pocketbooks, more and more teachers are seeking classroom grants. Private foundations contributed more than $4 million dollars to education in 2007 (28,521 grants)*, but the application process remains confusing and lonely. My Grant Wrangler (www.mygrantwrangler.com) provides the first online community for grant givers, seekers, and writers to join in conversation and learn from one another.

My Grant Wrangler is a free social networking site for grant seekers, grant writers, and grant givers to share their experiences, ideas, and knowledge and streamline the grant giving process. With close to 300 members and growing, My Grant Wrangler features forums, current grants information, photo diaries, blogs, and groups for grant givers, grant writers, librarians, and teachers.

My Grant Wrangler enables K-12 grant seekers to start a discussion on a particular grant, request feedback on what makes an ideal proposal, or ask about finding grants. Those who have already won a grant can provide feedback to givers, communicate with other winners of a specific grant, offer advice to current grant-seekers, and describe how they have utilized their classroom grants. Grant writers can visit My Grant Wrangler to connect to a community of K-12 grant seekers and offer their expertise, while grant givers can spread the word about their resources, attract stronger proposals, find out what other givers are doing, and learn how to establish a succinct and sound judging process.

Anyone can join by visiting www.mygrantwrangler.com.

Parents + Schools = Successful Children

The National Center for Family Literacy is launching a new set of products titled "Parents + Schools = Successful Children." The materials are designed specifically for Hispanic families, and funding was provided by a $143,700 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

The family literacy materials are patterned after comic books and graphic novels referred to as foto-novelas that are extremely popular in Spanish-speaking cultures. The innovative materials will be more effective than traditional literacy materials in helping Spanish-speaking families improve their English skills and increase their involvement in their children's education.

"Foto-novelas are an excellent way to provide information while using photography and a minimum of text to convey the message," said Dr. Deborah Hasson, director of the Hispanic Family Learning Institute and co-director of Toyota Programs for the National Center for Family Literacy. "They are very popular in Spanish-speaking countries and have a much stronger visual impact than most materials for English learners. The text is a conversation rather than narrative in format. Readers can rely on visual cues in the faces and expressions of the characters to help them guess at the meaning. In the United States and Canada, foto-novelas have become popular educational tools."

"Parents + Schools = Successful Children" (Padres + Escuelas = Niños Exitosos) will feature:

Two bilingual foto-novelas for parents titled "Get Involved!" (Involúcrate!) and "Reading at Home" (Lectura en el hogar);

A practitioner guide with lesson plans and activities for adult ESL and native language use; and

Two Web-based flash movies based on the two foto-novelas with audio in English and Spanish, which will be available on NCFL's Web site, www.famlit.org/foto.

"Through the use of foto-novelas, the National Center for Family Literacy has created an innovative and exciting way to engage parents in their child's education," said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General's CEO. "The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support this initiative and NCFL's educational programming and outreach efforts for Hispanic families."

According to the PBS series "Independent Lens," foto-novelas have recently become popular in the United States and enjoy print runs in Mexico as large as 250,000, reaching a large reading public.

"This is a great way to reach out to parents who may not be familiar with the U.S. school expectations or feel comfortable in school settings," said Linda Espinoza, Ph.D, and noted expert on English Language Learners from the University of Missouri. "What an inventive culturally appropriate way to communicate with Latino parents."

Hasson said foto-novelas will be effective literacy tools because they have minimal text, which makes them less intimidating to individuals who do not have high levels of literacy. They can act as a bridge to the reading of other materials.

The most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy issued in 2003 reported that Hispanic adults had the lowest levels of prose and document literacy of any racial/ethnic groups assessed; these had actually declined from the 1992 survey.

In 2006, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, 24 percent of Hispanic adults age 25 and older reported a less than 9th grade education, and 16 percent indicated having attended some high school but not graduating, which further indicates the need for entire families to become part of the solution.