DrRickBlog.com offers parents and educators news, tips and expert advice

Parents, teachers and administrators looking for advice on homework, writing, test-taking and a variety of other education topics - click no further.

Education expert, Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., known around the nation as Dr. Rick, has launched DrRickBlog.com, a free online resource for parents and educators that offers tips and tools for students from pre-K to high school.

DrRickBlog.com features weekly topics surrounding the latest issues in education, as he shares thoughts, advice and creative ideas. In addition, Dr. Rick's Blog invites visitors to post feedback and comments with their own views, helping to further the connection among educators and education-focused families throughout North America.

"There is such a wealth of educational information out there that it can be overwhelming," said Dr. Rick. "According to Technorati, there are more than 112 million blogs on the Web. Yet, there doesn't seem to be one place to find day-to-day tips to help with the shared responsibility of keeping students on track in their educational careers. My goal is to provide a one-stop source with ‘tricks of the trade' that I've learned from helping parents, educators and students coast-to-coast."

DrRickBlog.com will include current and relevant news articles, reference lists with additional resources and many other exciting sections as the site continues to expand. It will incorporate an inspirational, informative but light, fun and interactive tone, providing a supportive destination for parents and educators to visit all year long.

Dr. Rick has nearly forty years of experience in education, including his current national position as a senior vice president at Sylvan Learning. He began his career in Baltimore County, Md., working his way from a high school English teacher to an assistant superintendent for the school system's department of curriculum and instruction. His advice has generated national attention through appearances on The Today Show, Paula Zahn NOW on CNN-TV and The Tom Joyner Morning Show, as well as numerous radio and national magazine interviews.

With a Master of Liberal Arts degree from The Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Rick also holds a Doctorate in English Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Maryland. In addition, he is a member of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development and the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award of Towson University's College of Liberal Arts.

Website: http://www.drrickblog.com/

MS Read-A-Thon: Read for a Future Without Multiple Sclerosis

The 31st edition of the MS Read-A-Thon is now under way! Invitations have already been sent out to elementary and secondary schools by the Quebec Division of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. The activity encourages youngsters to discover new books while contributing to a worthy cause.

The MS Read-A-Thon has been launched officially, and schools that would like to participate can sign up now: all schools registered by November 21, 2008 could win one of three $300 gift certificates offered by Scholastic Canada. The event may be held in schools at any time between November 2008 and April 2009. The students at the participating schools read as many books as possible and raise pledges for each book they read within a two-week period.

For the fourth year, the Quebec Division of the MS Society can count on an English-speaking provincial spokesperson. Whynter Lamarre (member of the Silver Medal winning Canadian Women's Water Polo team in the 2006 Commonwealth Water Polo Championships) has agreed to be part of the MS Read-A-Thon, as this activity is both educational and humanitarian. "I encourage all the kids to sign up for the MS Read-A-Thon. That way, they'll get a chance to discover the exciting world of literature, while raising funds to contribute to a future without MS," says Whynter.

Last year's MS Read-A-Thon produced very good results: over 5,000 students at 86 schools read 34,000 books and raised more than $131,000. The funds will support research on multiple sclerosis (MS) and the services provided to the 13,000 to 18,000 people affected by MS and their families. This neurological disease mainly strikes people between the ages of 15 and 40, at exactly the time when they may be thinking of having a family or launching a career. Every day, three Canadians learn that they have MS, and every year, close to 50 children are diagnosed with the disease.

For more information, call 514-849-7591 or 1-800-268-7582 (toll-free) or visit http://www.msreadathon.ca/.

Students Promote Preschool Language, Literacy Skills

Jumpstart, the University of Wisconsin-Madison program that pairs university students with preschool children to build school readiness skills, is sponsoring several "Read for the Record" events on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Campus, city and state leaders will read the book "Corduroy" to preschool children at sites around Madison to highlight the importance of books in the development of language skills. On Oct. 2, Jumpstart programs at universities around the country will be sponsoring events to promote early literacy in preschool children as part of "Read for the Record," now in its third year.

"The availability of books in the home is a stronger predictor of later academic achievement than socioeconomic status," says Robert San Juan, UW-Madison Jumpstart site manager. But on average, children in low-income communities have an average of two age-appropriate books in their homes, compared to an average of 54 titles in middle-income homes.

School of Human Ecology Dean Robin A. Douthitt will read at the Preschool Laboratory, 1440 Linden Drive, at 3 p.m., sharing the children's classic story of a teddy bear that comes to life overnight in a department store. Other adults will read at various sites around Madison on Oct. 2:

- Madison Children's Museum, 100 State St., from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

- Madison Central Library Children's Reading Room, 201 West Mifflin St., from 3:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.

- South Madison Library, 2222 S. Park St., from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

- Meadowridge Library, 5740 Raymond Rd., from 4:00 p.m. to -5:00 p.m.

To learn more about the national event, visit www.readfortherecord.org.

New Kidspiration Lesson Plan Book Helps Teachers Use Visual Learning

Elementary teachers can help students start as early as kindergarten to learn the importance and process of writing well with today's launch of "Kidspiration in the Classroom: Writing Essentials" from Inspiration Software, Inc. As the most recent addition to the company's series of lesson plan books for using the visual learning tools in Kidspiration 3 to help students in grades K-5 build thinking skills, this book joins "Kidspiration in the Classroom: Math Made Visual" and "Kidspiration in the Classroom: Reading Essentials." Written by educators, all three books provide practical ideas and easy-to-follow directions that encourage student learning and thinking.

Created by Inspiration Software, Kidspiration 3 supports students in kindergarten through fifth grade as they build conceptual understanding in math, strengthen reading and writing skills and develop thinking skills across the curriculum. For a limited time, schools that purchase a Kidspiration computer-license lab pack will receive the complimentary Lesson Plans and Training Tutorials Bonus Pack. This special offer, available through Nov. 26, includes schoolwide licenses for all three "Kidspiration in the Classroom" lesson plan books and up to a six-month subscription to Atomic Learning's more than 110 Kidspiration training videos with the purchase of a five-, 10- or 20-computer license for the visual learning software.

"Communication and critical thinking skills are identified as two of the most essential 21st century skills," said Mona Westhaver, president and co-founder, Inspiration Software. "When teachers use visual learning to teach young learners the writing process, they are building strong written communication skills as well as the problem-solving and thinking skills that are so important in our ever-changing world."

"Kidspiration in the Classroom: Writing Essentials" is designed to teach students the complete writing process and includes standards-aligned chapters and lessons on prewriting, drafting and revising, editing and publishing, in addition to forms of writing. Lesson topics include: planning for writing, revising drafts, exploring different genres of writing and developing catchy titles. The book also includes references to suggested reading materials and other resources for teaching students the nuances of quality writing.

The new book's companion lesson plan book for building literacy skills, "Kidspiration in the Classroom: Reading Essentials," includes lessons for grades K-2 focusing on early literacy and the essential components of effective reading instruction, such as phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and comprehension. Developed to support elementary teachers as they use the new math tools in Kidspiration 3, "Kidspiration in the Classroom: Math Made Visual" includes 30 lesson plans that focus on core content strands, including number and operations, algebra, measurement and geometry, in ways that promote the development of problem-solving, reasoning and communication skills. All lessons are aligned to National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards.

Single copies of the lesson plan books are $29.95. Volume licenses for individual schools, available in an easy-to-share, electronic format, are $199. Sample pages from the books can be downloaded at www.inspiration.com/kidsclassbook.

Internet Is Driving Growth In Magazine Readership

While the internet may have been viewed as a threat to magazine readership, a new survey from magazine subscription website magazinesbymail.net has revealed that a visit to the internet actually encourages people to read magazines.

Over a quarter (26 per cent) of people surveyed said that seeing an article on the internet actually makes them want to pick up a magazine to find out more on subjects viewed online. The survey by magazinesbymail.net also found that for two thirds of people (66 per cent) a magazine remains the preferred source of information on favourite hobbies and topics. In fact, only seven percent of people said that they were less likely to read a magazine as a result of the availability of information on the internet.

The results of the largest ever survey of UK magazine subscribers also revealed that when people want to read up on favourite interests and hobbies there's no substitute for hard copy, with over half of respondents (52 per cent) describing the delivery of a favourite magazine to their door as a regular treat.

When it comes to taking time out to enjoy magazines perhaps it's not surprising that the nation's favourite tipple is a cup of tea, almost half of people (45 per cent) who opt for some refreshment whilst reading their magazine opted for a brew, whilst over a third (35 per cent) said that a glass of wine was the perfect accompaniment.

Nicola Rowe from magazinesbymail.net said "It seems that despite the growth and popularity of the internet, when it comes to taking time out to catch up on the latest news and views on hobbies and interests, reading a magazine is as popular as ever. Hectic lifestyles mean that we all need to make room for some 'me-time', and relaxing with a cup of tea and a magazine is many people's chosen indulgence.”

Writers Help Local Teens Get Creative

The Northwestern University Graduate Program in Creative Writing and the Evanston Public Library teamed up this summer to get local teenagers excited about writing.

The creative writing workshop, intended to inspire and cultivate teens' imaginations, was the first collaboration of its kind between Northwestern and the Evanston library.

The idea for the partnership originated with Sandi Wisenberg, a lecturer in the Creative Writing Graduate Program at Northwestern's School of Continuing Education. Wisenberg, an essayist and fiction writer herself, explained that her students wanted more teaching opportunities, and they were willing to teach for free.

"I thought the library would be a safe, friendly place that was familiar to people in the community. I thought it would be good to partner with the library, too, as a way of offering something to Evanston," Wisenberg explained.

With room for just one creative writing workshop at the Evanston library this summer, Wisenberg asked graduate students who were interested to organize their teaching ideas into proposals. She then worked with librarians to choose the proposal that not only appealed to them but also suited the needs of everyone involved. The one that was chosen belonged to Northwestern Creative Writing Master's student Elizabeth Herbert, who formulated a teaching plan for teens based on exploring point of view in fiction.

"Every class I teach makes me look at my favorite stories in a new way, because of the thoughts and feelings of my students," Herbert said. "I want to help my students look at their own writing in a whole new way, too. That's what is so exciting about this opportunity at the library -- teens can engage in reading and writing outside of their regular classrooms, in a way that's really fun and unique."

Among the stories Herbert chose to illustrate point of view were "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski, written from the perspective of a mute boy; "Wicked," by Gregory Maguire, explored from the point of view of a witch; and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" by Mark Haddon, written from the point of view of a young boy with autism.

"Elizabeth has a very creative approach and a wonderful sense of fun," said Young Adult Librarian Christine Chandler-Stahl, who worked with Wisenberg and Herbert to plan and coordinate the teen workshop. "There are many demands on teen students during the school year to write a certain way and to use a certain format," Chandler-Stahl explained. "I feel very fortunate to be able to offer a creative writing class that frees up teens to let their imaginations soar and to rekindle the deep joy in writing."

Herbert, who has also taught for Northwestern's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, an educational and social organization for senior adults, knew that after nine months of school, many teens weren't likely to be interested in taking a summer class. But teens did sign up, and Herbert embraced the opportunity to encourage her students to think about characters and stories that exist outside their everyday experiences.

Stirring an interest in reading and writing in young adults is a big priority at the Evanston library. "We live in a vibrant, university town with many talented people," Chandler-Stahl said. "Tapping into that talent through the hub of the library benefits all of us, and we are very grateful."

As for the future, Wisenberg hopes to collaborate with the Evanston library again next summer, perhaps offering creative writing and grammar classes for adults, too.

The creative writing workshop was held on Wednesday evenings from 7-8:30 p.m. in the fashionable teens-only Loft of the Evanston library. This summer the program ran from July 23 to Aug. 13.

Kumon - Teaching Children to Learn

Are you anxious to see your child learn to read and write? Whether they are already enrolled in a school program or you are spending time teaching your child at home, it is every parent's hope that their child will master these and other skills with ease.

The fad of creating super-genius children may be out, but concerned parenting will always be in. Encouraging your child to learn in a manner that makes learning rewarding and fun will help him or her to build confidence and self-reliance.


Kumon was created 50 years ago in Japan by a father and teacher. It is just one of the many programs available that help children improve their reading, writing and math skills outside of the school system.

The Kumon system is self-taught. The work is illustrated on the worksheet and the student is given assignments to be completed over several days. Students attend the Kumon centers about two days per week for marking and new assignments. Assignments are short (about 20 minutes per day) and parental involvement is encouraged.


Instead of frustration and pressure, the Kumon learning system is geared to build confidence and create a positive learning experience. Part of that comes from using self-motivation rather than a class or tutor to guide the student. This system works by evaluating the student's level of understanding and starting them with familiar work they can easily complete.

Starting the student with work that is easy builds confidence. The work gradually incorporates more complex lessons so the student can learn new skills on their own without assistance.

When an assignment is turned in with errors, the student will redo the assignment until it can be completed without error before moving on. This is very different from traditional schools where assignments are marked and returned and the class moves on to new work regardless of the abilities of individuals within the class.

Since Kumon is self-taught, there are no pressures to keep up with a class. Each student moves at their own pace. Working on one assignment until completed accurately ensures the student understands the concepts and is ready to move forward. Each student is therefore working at 100% of their potential.


Whether you want to use Kumon to build on what your child already knows or to help master skills that they are behind on in school, you can find a Kumon center online or look for Kumon materials sold in bookstores or online.

Kumon is just one way parents can help their children to learn. Looking for a program that builds confidence or using similar techniques at home all work towards helping children learn to teach themselves - a skill that will reward them throughout their lifetime.

(C) LiteracyNews.com

Reading Tips for Parents of Preschoolers

Inspiring your child to read could be the single most important thing you can do to help him succeed in school. Stories are an excellent way to stimulate the mind and expand the imagination for all of us.

Starting early with your child is the key to a life-long passion for the written word. Use the tips below and watch your child develop into a proficient reader.

Read Together Every Day

Read to your child everyday with different voice tones. Sometimes you can be fun, crazy, and exciting, other times be serious and intriguing. Even if your child does not understand all the words, you are making reading fun and interesting!

Have Your Child Read to You

Make this a warm loving time where your child feels safe to make mistakes. Have your child repeat after you. Start with simple phrases and words and move forward as your child progresses.

Show How Much You Love to Read

Tell your child that you need a certain amount of time every day to read by yourself. "This is my time," tell her. This shows how much you enjoy reading. Research shows that 55% of communication is body language, 38% tone of voice, and only 7% the content. If you are reading and enjoying it, your child is more likely to model that behavior. You may even find your child picking up your books and pretending to read.

Get Excited About Reading With Your Child

Throughout the day tell your child how much you are looking forward to "Story Time!" Remember the percentages of communication above.

Know When to Stop

Little by little is the key. Reading should be fun time. If your child is losing interest, put the book away for a while. If reading time is not surrounded by positive feelings then negative feelings will emerge. It is very difficult to re-establish the fun in reading when apprehension surfaces.

Talk About Writing

Ask your child what she thinks it would be like to write a book like the ones she loves. Mention to her how it's interesting how we read from left to right and how the text is separated by spaces, commas, and paragraphs.

Point Out Words Everywhere

Talk about written words you see in your community: road signs, advertisements, bumper stickers, and grocery stores. Challenge your child to find at least two new words on each outing. Then celebrate her discoveries with positive body language, exciting tones of voice, and positive words of encouragement.

Follow the above tips and watch your child develop a strong vocabulary and passion for the written word. The importance of reading with your children cannot be over emphasized.

Reading is a wonderful way to bond with your children and provides memories they will carry with them all their lives. Proficiency in reading, more than any other skill, increases their potential for success in school and as an adult.

In short, reading with your children is a gift that gives for a lifetime.

(C) Literacy News

Sheila Cohen to Chair Literacy Department at SUNY Cortland

SUNY Cortland has appointed Sheila Cohen of Cortland, N.Y., as chair of the Literacy Department.

Cohen, an associate professor of literacy who has served the College for 21 years, began her three-year appointment on Aug. 1.

The Literacy Department offers a master's degree in literacy education. The program is intended for students who have a bachelor's degree in teacher education. Graduates of literacy education will be prepared to provide specialized literacy instruction and assessment across a variety of levels and settings, including as a literacy resource teacher, literacy teacher or coach, classroom teacher, facilitator of intervention services and curriculum specialist for a school or at a district level.

Cohen, who joined the College's Literacy Department in 1987 as an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 1991. In addition to teaching, she is active on many campus committees. This past academic year, Cohen organized The Big Read, which was part of a national effort to encourage children, youth and adults to become more literate and informed citizens. The program was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and featured 32 separate events both on and off campus. She also is involved with the Homer (N.Y.) Center for Performing Arts.

Cohen earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the City College of New York, a master's degree in human development from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford, N.J., and a doctorate from the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Source: http://www.cortland.edu/

Plugged-In To Reading Launches New Website

This month, Plugged-in to Reading--a reading program for middle and high schools from literacy expert Dr. Janet Allen--released a new website, http://www.pluggedintoreading.com/, which features access to information on all the program's components. Published by Recorded Books, Plugged-in to Reading and nonfiction-based sister program Plugged-in to Nonfiction are currently used in over 1,000 classrooms across the nation.

Educators viewing the new website will find:

* Details on using the program's teacher materials
* A tutorial on running literature circles
* Suggestions for managing reading time in the classroom
* Frequently asked questions
* Interviews with teachers currently using the program
* Results of test scores from state assessments
* A sampling of Dr. Allen's extensive research base for the program

Nominations Are Open for 2009 Golden Apple Awards

Nominations are open September 1 through December 12 for the 2009 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

To be eligible for the 24th annual awards, nominees must be full-time classroom teachers currently teaching in grades pre-K through 3rd at a public or non-public school located in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties of Illinois. Nominees also must be committed to continue teaching for at least two years after receiving the award.

Ten award winners will receive a paid sabbatical to study tuition-free at Northwestern University, a laptop computer, $3,000, induction into the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, and public recognition on a one-hour WTTW/11 TV special.

Award finalists will be announced in March; the 10 winners will be named in May.

Nomination forms are available at the Golden Apple Web site - www.goldenapple.org (direct link is http://www.goldenapple.org/pages/a_teacher/21.php) - or by calling 1-866/912-9868, or writing to Golden Apple, 8 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 700, Chicago, IL 60603. For more information, call Nellie Quintana at 312/407-0433 ext. 121.

How Many Gold Medals Would Boys Win if Reading Were an Olympic Sport?

If reading were an Olympic sport, it would be the women holding all the gold medals and world records - not the men. In fact, the women are not just passing their male counterparts when it comes to reading, they are lapping them around the track.

"The Olympic games serve as an apt metaphor and occur at an appropriate time to remind the nation's educators and parents that we need to acknowledge this widespread problem, and work harder to engage boys in reading," said noted children's author Jon Scieszka, who was recently named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress.

Scieszka points to staggering statistics underlying the boys reading crisis:

* Boys have lagged behind girls on reading tests in every age group for the last 30 years, according to the U.S. Department of Education;

* Eighth grade boys are 50 percent more likely to be held back than girls;

* Two-thirds of special education students in high school are boys;

* Overall college enrollment is higher for girls than boys.

Scieszka said that it's pretty clear that a boy's vision of the perfect lazy summer day won't include reading under a shade tree. Experts are starting to make progress researching the roots of this decline. Why has this largely invisible crisis happened?

One of the central problems is that boys tune out when the subject matter doesn't resonate with them.

"Boys have trouble reading because they don't get to read for a purpose that makes any sense to them," Scieszka said. "So they turn off to all of reading."

He noted that boys often have trouble reading for other reasons:

* Biologically, boys are slower to develop than girls and often struggle with reading and writing skills early on;

* The action-oriented, competitive learning style of many boys works against them when learning to read and write;

* As a society, we teach boys to suppress feelings. Boys often don't feel comfortable exploring the emotions and feelings found in fiction;

* Boys don't have enough positive male role models for literacy. Because the majority of adults involved in kids' reading are women, boys might not see reading as a masculine activity.

Scieszka, who recently partnered with the education publisher Pearson, is bringing his expertise into U.S. classrooms as an author of the new Reading Street elementary school curriculum as well as the Prentice Hall Literature programs for middle and high school. He said, "As a society we need to make more of an effort to connect boys with many different kinds of reading - both at home and at school."

He added, "If we can expand the notion of what reading is, we'll have a better chance of inspiring boys to want to be readers. This means broadening our definition of reading to include boy-friendly nonfiction, humor, sports, comics, graphic novels, action-adventure, magazines, websites, and newspapers. Boys need to know that these materials count as reading."

Scieszka offers a simple suggestion for engaging boys to read.

"We can help boys become readers by giving them a reason to want to become readers," he said. "This approach opens the door and the mind. Once a boy starts reading, he will be more receptive to many other types of reading over his lifetime."

For more on boys and reading, visit Scieszka's web site, http://www.guysread.com/

Writing Instructor Pens Children's Book to Help Teachers Boost Literacy

A new children's book from writing instructor Jackie Cottrell-Johnson is specially designed to help turbo-charge kids' literacy skills in addition to being a darn good read.

"Daddy's Voice," just published by Outskirts Press, is now available through the online store at www.outskirtspress.com/store.php. The book uses recognizable voice, distinctive word choice, sentence variations and many other key writing skills taught inside the classroom, making it an excellent teaching tool for language arts instructors. It can also be used as a read-aloud, in literacy circles and as an independent reading activity.

But at the heart of "Daddy's Voice" is a strong story sure to draw kids in. The book follows 9-year-old Tommy, who struggles with the absence of his father after he unexpectedly walks out of Tommy's life. Distraught, Tommy deals with issues of guilt, inadequacy and loneliness as he struggles to live up to being "the man of the house." Although he knows he must be strong and go at it alone, Tommy's past stays fresh on his mind—especially the voice of his father saying his final words: "Never doubt." But the surprising truth that unfolds helps Tommy to reconnect the shattered pieces in a bittersweet ending.

With its memorable characters and a series of conflicts, students and teachers will enjoy the unfolding twists and turns of "Daddy's Voice," says Cottrell-Johnson.

"When I decided to write ‘Daddy's Voice,' I knew it had to include all the good things that would enhance children's literacy skills—things like specialized vocabulary and opportunities for small group discussion about word meaning," says Cottrell-Johnson. "But I also knew it had to be a really good story. What happens to Tommy is relevant to a lot of kids today, and they can take away so much from his tale of survival."

Indeed, research shows children who are more motivated to read experience a more successful academic career. According to the National Institute for Literacy, "When children become good readers in the early grades, they are more likely to become better learners throughout their school years and beyond." "Daddy's Voice" supports that outcome by combining a compelling plot and appropriately challenging content to an enjoyable children's novel.

Washtenaw Literacy's "World in a Basket" raises funds

International Literacy Day is September 8 -- a day that calls attention to the global issue of illiteracy. Sound like a problem for third-world countries? Think closer to home. In Washtenaw County -- renowned for world-class universities and hospitals, active art and cultural communities, and scholarly, progressive urban areas -- one in eight adult men and women have reading skills so rudimentary they can't complete a simple form ... or a job application.

"People are shocked to discover that 12% of Washtenaw County residents are functionally illiterate," says Chris Roberts, executive director of Washtenaw Literacy, a nonprofit organization that helps illiterate adults learn to read and write. "These are adults who can't read instructions on a bottle of medicine or a note from their child's teacher. Imagine the struggles of coping in a society that's increasingly knowledge-driven."

Indeed, she adds, illiteracy is a sure-fire path to increasing poverty and decreasing employability. Statistics compiled by the group show that 43% of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty and that illiteracy is a major barrier to employment for 47% of people receiving public assistance. Further, illiteracy is self-perpetuating: half the children born to illiterate parents will grow up to be illiterate adults.

"Although it may appear to be an individual problem, it impacts entire communities," Roberts says. Research has shown that illiteracy is a significant economic drain, as well as a leading cause of crime and higher healthcare costs. In fact, literacy skills are a stronger predictor of an individual's health status than age, income, job, education level or ethnicity

But there is some good news. Literacy programs, such as those run by Washtenaw Literacy, do work. The National Center for Family Literacy reports that one year in a basic literacy skills class results in a 25% increase in employment. A World Health Organization study found that the most effective way to promote children's health was to raise the literacy levels of their mothers. And a three-state study of prison recidivism found that inmates who participate in educational classes are less likely to be imprisoned again.

Sadly, the need for literacy services far outpaces their availability, and the gap is growing. In a weakened economy, increased competition for jobs raises basic employment requirements. And as immigration rates rise, so does the demand for English instruction for new Americans.

"With more funding, we could serve so many more in need," says Roberts. "To us, $100 means a group tutoring session and $500 means a whole year of one-on-one tutoring. That's absolutely life-changing."

Washtenaw Literacy is meeting the funding challenge head-on with its annual "World in a Basket" fundraiser on October 3 in Washtenaw Community College's Morris Lawrence Building. A strolling dinner and auction -- where "baskets" of vacation packages, big screen TVs and other luxuries go to the highest bidder -- have attracted those looking to support an important cause in an entertaining setting for 10 years. The honorary host of this year's event will be Lloyd Carr, former University of Michigan head football coach.

Anyone looking to help improve literacy -- and the lives of 27,000 of their neighbors -- can do so through ticket purchases or donations of auction items. All proceeds from the event go to fund Washtenaw Literacy's programs ... programs that have a 90% learner success rate.

To learn more about Washtenaw Literacy's "World in a Basket," visit worldinabasket.blogspot.com.

Writing Tips for Creative Kids

So you want to write a story! Congratulations, this is an exciting and fun venture that both you and your readers will enjoy.

Don't think that being a kid is going to stop you from creating just like the adults do. In fact, kids are better at using their imagination, and not letting critical thinking get in the way, so you do have some benefits that will help you churn out a great story.

The most important tip to remember is not to tell everything. The best way to get your readers' imaginations working is to only tell the most important details, and let them fill in the rest.

With that in mind, here are some simple steps you can follow to get your story from your head onto the paper, and then into the hands of others.

Step 1: Idea

Before you start writing, you should have an idea that you will be writing about. It might be something that happened in real life, to you, or your friends, or your pets. Or you might imagine what your pets would say if they could talk, and write a story around that. Think about what kinds of adventures they would get into.

Your favorite stories or comics could also inspire you. Never copy what someone else has created, but you can let it give you ideas that you will take into a whole new direction.

You could also take several ideas from different places, and combine them into one new situation. What if your pets were magical, like Harry Potter? Now take that idea and start to expand on it.

Step 2: Story Basics

Now that you have an idea, it's time to write down the basics of what you will be telling. Who is the main character and what is his or her name? What does he or she like to do? Who are that person's friends, and what do they do together?

A good story features a main character with a problem to solve, and another character to help them solve it. So who will the other character be, and what will be the challenge that they overcome together?

Usually a problem either focuses on a person against another person, a person against nature, or a person against himself or herself.

Step 3: Story Details

Now that you have the basics down, create some more details around it. How old is your main character, and how did they happen to have this problem? Can they solve it on their own, even if they don't know it yet? Is there something they need to overcome, like a fear or doubt, before they realize that they could have solved this problem all along?

How is the secondary character going to help them? What do they know that the main character doesn't?

Most stories also have a villain who will try to stop the main character from achieving their goal. Who is this villain, and why do they want to prevent the hero from doing something?

A lot of stories also feature a teacher or mentor who is older or wiser than the friends, and will help them discover the solution to the problem that they are seeking. Who is this authority figure, what do they know, and how will they help out?

Step 4: Plot

Now that you know what's going to happen, you will want to make sure it happens at the right time and in the right place. This sequence of events is called a plot.

Focus on cause and effect: what happens, and then what happens as a result of that? What decisions do the characters make that take them forward into another situation?

What kinds of adventures will they have while struggling with the problem? Who comes in to reveal important information to the heroes? When does the villain create roadblocks to letting them find solutions? How do they get around that, and what adventures do they now have while reaching their goals?

In the end, what kind of punishment will the villain get when the heroes get their reward?

5. Write

Now that you know the flow of your story, and the details of what happens when, it's time to actually write it.

When telling the story, don't just do it in your own words. Let the characters talk too. Lots of dialogue and descriptions will keep the story moving and get your reader involved in the conversation.

During this step you should not worry about spelling or grammar mistakes, or what you should have written instead. Now your job is simply to write from the heart, and just let the words flow out onto your paper or computer screen.

6. Edit

Now that you have written your masterpiece, you have the chance to go back and revise it, or fix up any mistakes you might have.

Look for things like the characters all talking the same way. Perhaps it would be more interesting if each character had their own special words and phrases that only they use, so the reader knows immediately who is speaking and gets to know them as individual people.

Also make sure you have enough dialogue, as well as enough descriptions of the scenery and action, without telling too much. Remember, the reader likes to use their imagination too.

So follow these simple steps to write story after story, the easy way, without ever having to worry about what to write or how.

Happy writing!

(C) Literacy News

New Registry Launches for School Teachers to Create Classroom Wish List

A new online registry for teachers created by Minnesota-based Anderson's, is launching in time for back to school. Similar to registries for babies and brides, Gold Star Registry is designed to allow teachers to post a wish list of the supplemental classroom tools that enhance their learning environment, such as skill-builders, achievement awards and learning incentives. The registry provides the curriculum aids they need to teach and motivate students while enabling parents, parent-teacher associations and other supportive community members to contribute the exact supplies requested by the teachers.

According to a recent national survey conducted by Quality Education Data (QED), U.S. teachers spend on average $475 of their own money on supplies for their students and classrooms. Gold Star Registry aims to help alleviate pressure on teacher pocketbooks by enabling parents and others to contribute the exact supplies teachers indicate they need most. The service lets the teacher take advantage of the Internet to build upon the lists of classroom items needed that teachers typically send out at the beginning of the year.

"Gold Star Registry makes it possible to obtain the tools that will help students learn while also making it easy for parents and communities to provide meaningful support to their local teachers," said Katie Schervish, an elementary school teacher from St. Nicholas Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, who participated in the pilot launch of the new service. "While donations from parents or the parent teacher association are always appreciated, the items they give may not always align with our most pressing learning need."

Gold Star Registry Business Unit Leader and Program Spokesperson Judy McClellan said, "In many districts, school budgets simply cannot cover the cost of all the classroom supplies needed. Teachers committed to creating an attractive learning environment and providing the additional tools to help their students learn are buying the extras with their own money. Our registry enables teachers to get what they need without putting further strain on their own budget or that of the district. It effectively widens the circle of support for schools."

To use the service, teachers register at a website, http://www.goldstarregistry.com/. There, they can build an online wish list from the more than 6,000 available products from 16 leading education publishers that have been recommended by teachers. They simply indicate the quantity of each item needed. Teachers can update their wish lists while also indicating the preferred delivery date of materials at any time throughout the school year.

Parents, parent teacher associations and others can then log onto an individual teacher's registry and purchase items, knowing that 100 percent of the gift goes directly to the teacher. They can make their selections fully confident that they are contributing supplies that the teacher and students specifically want and need. Purchases are shipped directly to the school, a convenience that saves donors time, effort and gasoline.

Gold Star Registry helps ensure that the items donors give will make a difference for the teacher and students. Parents will know the teacher needs specific items like workbooks, bulletin board sets, flashcards, stickers or award incentives that will help to enhance learning skills versus giving a gift specific to a teacher. "Although we appreciate the sentiment, many of us simply don't need another gift of a coffee mug," said Schervish.