Poor literacy levels a safety hazard for Canadian workers

Canadian organizations invest heavily in occupational health and safety training and new equipment to protect employees, yet they spend little on upgrading the basic skills and literacy of their workers, according to a new Conference Board report examining literacy's impact on workplace health and safety.

Conference Board survey data has shown that employers spent 10 per cent of their training budgets on occupational health and safety training. But respondents said they spent just two per cent of the budget for organizational training, learning and development on literacy and basic skills upgrading.

"Low literacy skills in the workplace do more than just threaten an organization's productivity and competitiveness - they also put workers' health and safety at risk," said Alison Campbell, Senior Research Associate, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning.

"If workers can't understand health and safety regulations provided to them, or if they can't understand their rights to a safe workplace, there is an increased risk of incidents and injury."

International survey results show that more than four in 10 Canadians in the working-age population do not have the literacy skills needed to perform most jobs well.

The Conference Board's survey research also reveals an inverse relationship between industries requiring a high level of health and safety and investment in literacy skills. With the exception of the wholesale and retail industries, the primary and construction industries spend the least amount per employee on developing literacy and basic skills. Transportation and utility sector spending on literacy and basic skills training ($4 per employee in 2006) is also a fraction of that spent in industries such as information and communications technology ($32 per employee) and financial services ($13 per employee).

Some sectors are trying to raise literacy levels - the Construction Sector Council, Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council and the Wood Manufacturing Council have initiated programs to ensure that workers thoroughly understand common job hazards and basic safety practices.

This report, All Signs Point to Yes: Literacy's Impact on Workplace Health and Safety, outlines the preliminary results of a two-year Conference Board research project, "What You Don't Know Can Hurt You", supported by Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

Website: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/

"From Crayons to Condoms" editors: innovative new schools spark a needed revolution

What do Latin, the study of Western civilization, Cicero and Chaucer have in common? "They are all subjects or authors ignored or mocked in many public school curriculums," observes Steve Baldwin, co-editor of From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth about America's Public Schools (WND Books, ISBN: 978-0-979267-11-6, June 2008.) And yet these same topics have been embraced by an exciting new breed of private schools such as Chesterton Academy in Minneapolis. Why?

"As the founder of this new school states, our kids are being cheated by the public schools," co-editor Karen Holgate asserts, a belief documented in From Crayons To Condoms through fast-moving anecdotes from teachers and parents. As these public school horror stories show, money, fancy facilities, and unionized teachers have very little to do with the quality of education. In fact, teachers' unions are a big part of the problem when it comes to school reform.

That's why it's exciting to see new schools like Chesterton go "back to the future" by teaching the 3,000-year old body of knowledge that is every child's heritage. As Crayons editors Baldwin and Holgate observe, "Compare this emphasis on classics and critical thinking to our public schools' obsession with explicit and obscene literature, whole language, 'new new Math,' and history re-written by those who hate this country, and it's obvious why parents would be abandoning public schools in droves if they could."

The editors of From Crayons to Condoms agree that if the teacher unions would quit blocking education reforms such as vouchers, then innovative schools like this would blossom all over America. As it currently stands, only the well-to-do can afford this kind of quality education, and that's a tragedy for both our children and our nation.


Reading Test Scores on the Rise for Kids Nationwide

With the most recent U.S. Department of Education's "Nation's Report Card" recording the highest reading scores for fourth graders in 15 years, school districts around the country are crediting the top selling Scott Foresman Reading Street curriculum with their students' dramatic improvements. This research-based program, published by the education company Pearson, and built on the standards set by the National Reading Panel, is now the foundation for reading instruction for five million students in more than 10,000 schools and districts across the country.

After just one year with Scott Foresman Reading Street, Garfield Elementary School in Revere, Massachusetts saw a 37 percent increase on its students' state reading assessment scores, a particularly significant achievement for a school where nearly half of the students come from homes where English is not the first language.

Garfield School Principal Salvatore Cammarata said, "Comprehension and vocabulary are really the keys to being successful in all areas of reading. Our students are now equipped with those skills and strategies and tools so that they can successfully apply them not only to reading, but in all other curriculum areas -- math, science, and social studies." He added, "And the proof is in the dramatic improvement in our scores."

Independent research of the Reading Street program supports the gains experienced by Garfield School, with improvements ranging from 30-50 percent.

The nation's number one reading program last year, Reading Street is designed to help teachers develop readers through motivating and engaging literature, scientifically research-based instruction, and a wealth of reliable teaching tools. Dean Brown, Pearson's Senior Vice President for Reading, said, "The program takes the guesswork out of differentiating instruction with a strong emphasis on ongoing progress monitoring and an explicit plan for managing small groups of students. In addition, Reading Street prioritizes skill instruction at each grade level so teachers can be assured they will focus on the right skill, at the right time, for every student."

Enthusiasm for Scott Foresman Reading Street continues to build in school districts around the country. More than 75 percent of elementary schools in Alabama have now adopted the reading curriculum, which was ranked number one of nine programs evaluated by the Alabama Reading Initiative in its "Expert Review of Core Reading Programs."

Marilyn Howell, Elementary Education Supervisor for Curriculum and Instruction for Alabama's Mobile County schools, described the decision-making process, "Our team conducted an extensive study of four reading series for potential adoption. This study included delving deeply into each of the series, searching for that which most closely aligned with the Alabama Course of Study, our K-5 Reading Curriculum, and high stakes testing." She added, "We were also looking for a program that made the most effective provision for all types and levels of learners, possessed an array of assessments, was most user friendly for teachers, and provided motivating and appealing literature. After close scrutiny, it was the consensus of the textbook committee that Reading Street and its companion intervention program My Sidewalks most completely met the criteria."

In Chicago more than 100 of the city's elementary schools have chosen Scott Foresman Reading Street to ensure that their students are building the literacy skills that they need for success in school and in life.

Chicago's Armour Elementary School faces its share of the challenges of urban education while working to ensure that its nearly 500 students who come largely from socio-economically disadvantaged homes achieve at the highest level. Yet, with a dedicated team of teachers, a committed administrator and the new Scott Foresman Reading Street curriculum, the number of students meeting or exceeding standards on the Illinois state assessment has increased 35 percent since 2006 and the number of students scoring proficient for reading has doubled.

Principal Shelley Cordova said, "Our teachers especially liked the award winning literature in Reading Street, the vocabulary activities, the phonics, and the English Language Learner component." She added, "We want any curriculum we use to be fun, energetic, interactive and something teachers can strongly believe in. Our teachers chose Reading Street because it had all of those features and would meet the needs of all of our students."

With the story chart and "Amazing Words" in the Reading Street curriculum, Chicago kindergarten teacher Donna Smith saw her students make great strides. "I had a lot of bilingual children in my class this year. A few of them even came to school not speaking any English," she said. "I used Reading Street to move them from learning letters to linking the amazing words in Reading Street to the pictures in the story charts. Now they are speaking English and beginning to read."

For more information, go to http://www.pearson.com/ and http://www.pearsonschool.com/.

New Pearson Prize for Young Adult Literature

Learning for a Cause founder and teacher Michael Ernest Sweet was disappointed when he began teaching and saw how barren Canadian classrooms tend to be - no books!

In an effort to bring books - hundreds of books - into his classroom for his students, who are often celebrated for the books they write through the Learning for a Cause Project, Sweet founded the Pearson Prize for Young Adult Literature.

"It is a win win situation for everyone" explained Sweet, "students get books sent to them to read and authors and publishers, especially the little guys, get to enter their books, free of charge, in an contest with meaning." Sweet claims the contest has immense credibility because the books are being judged by real high school students, actual young readers.

Mrs. Landon Pearson, a former Canadian senator, was on hand at the school for the launch. Mrs. Pearson also spoke to more than 250 of the students there about Children's Rights as part of the Learning for a Cause Citizenship Conference. The Hon. Mrs. Pearson was last at the school in 1976 when she opened the building bearing her father-in-laws name.

The prize will be awarded annually and consists of a trophy and books seals as well as a publicity package. "The major win will be the entitlement to claim the title of the prize. A gold seal bearing the Pearson Prize will mean that more than 100 high school students chose this book because they liked it. There is no politics here. It doesn't matter who you are, what you have written before or who you know. What matters is if kids like your book" said Sweet.

The Pearson Prize is open to any book appealing to an audience between 12-18 and published in English. Any country can enter. There are no fees you merely have to send two copies of your book along with the entry form available at the prize website http://www.pearsonprize.org/

Tackling Reading Fluency Issues

A National Reading Panel report that identified fluency as "a critical component of skilled reading," has inspired teachers across the country to make reading fluency a critical part of teaching and assessing students. Many teachers have turned to Jan Hasbrouck, Ph.D., a nationally known educational consultant, researcher, and trainer, for the best advice on how to improve their students' fluency.

Dr. Hasbrouck defined fluency as the ability to read with appropriate speed, accuracy, and good expression. "Fluency is now understood to be a unique and fundamental component of skilled, proficient reading because of its close link to comprehension and motivation," she said. "Elementary students who struggle with fluency will most likely have difficulty understanding what they have read. These students will also be much less likely to read for pleasure and enjoyment."

An expert in differentiated instruction and assessment as well as fluency, Dr. Hasbrouck is an author of California Treasures, a new research-based elementary reading and language arts program meeting all California state standards for Grades K-6.

Dr. Hasbrouck's contributions to the program include methods for assessing a student's reading ability. She has successfully identified three different roles for fluency assessments: screening, diagnosis, and progress monitoring.

Screening assessments determine which students may need further assistance with reading by comparing their oral reading fluency score to a benchmark. "Listening to a student read out loud for one minute from an unpracticed grade-level text can tell a teacher a lot about the student's ability," she says.

Dr. Hasbrouck advises teachers that, once they have determined that a student is likely having problems with reading, it is important to determine what is causing the problem. She recommends diagnostic assessments to determine a student's strengths and weaknesses in phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

"For example, if a Grade 5 student is reading at a Grade 3 level, we could assess their fluency using unpracticed passages of Grade 3 text," she says. "That score can then be compared to benchmark scores of other Grade 3 students to determine if the student's fluency is on track for that student's level of skill development."

Once differentiated instruction has been implemented, Dr. Hasbrouck recommends weekly or bi-monthly one-minute assessments of oral reading fluency using unpracticed passages at a student's instructional level to help the teacher evaluate the effectiveness of instruction.

Dr. Hasbrouck will delve further into this topic when she presents "Reading Fluency: Put This Key Skill In Perspective" at the California Reading Association's annual conference in October. She will address research findings on the role of fluency in reading and how it fits into a comprehensive reading program.

California Treasures is a comprehensive reading and language arts program that includes differentiated instruction, an English language development program, writing support, and classroom management resources.

Source: http://www.macmillanmh.com/

Creativity and Technology Transform Georgia Students' Writing Skills

When Denise Lewis' language arts students at Woodstock Middle School in Georgia were struggling with writing, she addressed the problem with creativity and a new Web-based learning tool. Within weeks, improvements in her eighth graders' writing skills were so compelling that they wrote a proposal for a technology grant that reaped a $1,000 award for their school. By the spring, nearly all of Lewis' students had passed the state writing assessment.
The transformation followed Lewis' adoption of Pearson's award-winning Web-based writing and reading comprehension learning tool, WriteToLearn ™, and the purchase of laptop computers for her classroom by technology-forward Cherokee County School District.

"The difference was like night and day," she said. "The kids were running to my classroom to get on WriteToLearn."

With WriteToLearn, students practice essay writing and summarization skills, and their efforts are measured by Pearson's state-of-the-art Knowledge Analysis Technologies™ (KAT) engine. The KAT engine is a unique automated assessment technology that evaluates the meaning of text by examining whole passages, not just for grammatical correctness or spelling.

With WriteToLearn, Lewis guides her students in developing writing strategies, which they immediately apply with WriteToLearn.

"They can actually see that what I'm teaching them will work, which is otherwise difficult to do, especially with the struggling writers," Lewis said.

With every WriteToLearn assignment, students are eager to see the feedback they receive and are more engaged in what they're learning, she continued. "They work and work to get the best possible feedback, and they're very competitive."

For the grant-writing project, the students conducted research, created surveys, interviewed each other and even made a movie that showed them using WriteToLearn. "They learned that they have the power to write for a purpose," she said.

This year, Lewis is teaching seventh graders at all skill levels, and is finding that WriteToLearn is effective at differentiating instruction to make it more personalized for each student. "It works for everyone - from our writers who need extra help to our high-achieving and gifted students."

At another Cherokee County school, F. D. Johnston Elementary School, sixth-grade language arts teacher Jeff Pence doesn't hesitate to acknowledge that using WriteToLearn has changed his life.
"I spend my time teaching writing instead of drudging through papers," he said. "WriteToLearn changes the attitudes of teachers because grading papers was killing us."

With teaching six classes a day of approximately 25 students per class, Pence was previously only able to assign and grade about three writing prompts during the entire school year. Now, he assigns as many as two writing prompts per week, "and by Friday afternoon, they are both in the gradebook for all my classes," he said. "My students get so much practice with WriteToLearn - something I never could have given them on my own."

Pence points out that the best part of WriteToLearn is how it motivates his students. "My students absolutely eat it up," he said. "Wow - it's a great time to be teaching."

Pat Kearns, Ph.D., the district's director of academic standards, professional development and career pathways, said, "Cherokee County School District boasts a team of creative, talented teachers who have found ways to use technology, such as WriteToLearn, to ensure that all of their students achieve at the highest level. When I visit classrooms around the district, I am amazed at the new enthusiasm for writing that I see when students are practicing with WriteToLearn."

More information about WriteToLearn is available at http://www.writetolearn.net/.

AT&T Awards $730,000 in Grants to Address High School Dropout Crisis in Los Angeles Area

AT&T Inc. is awarding more than $730,000 in AT&T Foundation grants to eight Los Angeles-area educational institutions to support high school retention programs for at-risk students

The grants are part of the company's signature initiative, AT&T Aspire, which was announced earlier this year to help address high school success and workforce readiness. AT&T has committed $100 million in philanthropy through 2011 to schools and nonprofit organizations that are focused on high school retention and better preparing students for college and the workforce.

As part of the Aspire initiative, the AT&T Foundation has committed $29 million in High School success grants to more than 170 schools and nonprofit organizations. Statewide, AT&T is awarding 35 grants totaling more than $3.5 million.

America's Promise Alliance, the nation's largest multi-sector collaborative dedicated to the well-being of children and youth, has noted that nearly one-third of U.S. high school students drop out before graduating -- with about 7,000 students dropping out every school day, or one every 26 seconds.

"High school dropout rates are a serious issue affecting more than 1 million students in this country each year," said Denita Willoughby, vice president, AT&T External Affairs - Los Angeles. "We're committed to supporting the great work our educators are already doing in our local communities to help kids succeed by preparing them for a global economy. We are lending a hand to build and expand these programs, and we are gratified by the response to the program and look forward to working with these groups to build a brighter future for our youth."

Local recipients of these grants are:

Los Angeles Urban League -- $100,000 to support the Algebra 1 Summer Institute for at-risk 9th graders and a rigorous Mathematical Thinking professional development program for 9th grade Algebra I teachers at Crenshaw High School within Los Angeles Unified School District.

UNITE-LA, Inc. -- $215,000 over 3 years to support Los Angeles Unified School District's College and Career Success Schools that are designed to provide sustained support to at-risk 9th and 10th grade students.

Alameda Unified School District -- $85,000 to support Island High School serving credit deficient students who have not been successful in a traditional high school.

Los Angeles City College Foundation -- $50,000 to support 30 at-risk 9th and 10th graders from Los Angeles Unified School District throughout the school year covering core subjects and computer skills, and to support a six week 9th grade summer bridge program that reinforces skills critical when transitioning in high school.

Los Angeles Unified School District -- $85,000 to support Belmont High School's Juvenile Intervention and Prevention program, which targets at-risk 9th and 10th grade students, and is designed to improve academic skills, reduce truancy, build strong family systems, and develop civic responsibility.

Pasadena Educational Foundation -- $90,000 to support expansion of the Pasadena Unified School District's Secondary Literacy Initiative, targeting at-risk 9th and 10th graders, by providing intensive supplementary instruction for students more than two years below grade level in reading.

University of Southern California -- $70,000 to provide a rigorous course of study, including Saturday academies for 9th and 10th grade at-risk students, to ensure they graduate with the skills and competencies necessary to progress through high school and college.

Hispanic College Fund -- $35,000 to support planning efforts to expand the Fund's Hispanic Youth Symposium and associated year-round programming targeting Hispanic 9th graders at two underserved Los Angeles Unified School District high schools.

As one of the largest-ever corporate commitments to high school retention and workforce readiness, the $100 million AT&T Aspire program will support organizations with strong track records that promote educational success, from the classroom to the workplace. The recipient programs of this year's High School Success grants provide a range of support for students, including academic intervention, mentoring and tutoring services.

In addition to the retention program grants, AT&T Aspire will award funding in three other key areas:

-- A student job shadowing initiative involving 400,000 AT&T employee hours that will give 100,000 students a firsthand look at the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century workforce.

-- The underwriting of national research that will explore the practitioner perspective (teachers, principals, superintendents, school counselors and school board members) on the high school dropout issue.

-- Support for 100 state and community dropout prevention summits, announced earlier this year by America's Promise Alliance.

For more information about the AT&T Aspire initiative, please visit http://www.att.com/education-news.

Teachers to Curriculum Creators: Give Us the Real World

When asked, "What characteristics are most important in a curriculum resource?" more than two thirds of math and science educators surveyed selected "Shows real world connections." Notably, in view of the high stakes testing climate created by No Child Left Behind, the characteristic of "Raises test scores" was lowest ranked, at only 4%.

These results were part of a nationwide survey of 800 math, science and technology educators conducted by The Futures Channel. The survey follows a recent report from the State Educational Technology Directors Association, which called on teachers to promote the possibilities of the possibilities of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) oriented careers, in order to change student attitudes towards the study of math and science.

The Futures Channel survey suggests that U.S. math and science teachers do understand the importance and effectiveness of promoting STEM careers but are looking to curriculum coordinators and providers for the resources they need to carry it out.

The Futures Channel, through its web site at http://www.thefutureschannel.com/, provides educators with short video documentaries that take students behind the scenes at workplaces across the U.S. to see professionals using math and science in a variety of careers. Since 2006, there have been over 15 million student views of The Futures Channel's online movies, according to Jenna Bowles, the video channel's Chief Operating Officer.

With movie topics ranging from robotics engineering to cell phone design and wildlife conservation to space architecture, teachers use The Futures Channel's resources to answer the perennial question asked by students, "Why do I need to learn this?"

Lorrie Kester of Goldsboro, North Carolina uses those videos in her middle school math classroom. "The Futures Channel shows real people working real jobs and it reinforces what the student is being taught in the classroom," Kester explained. "The Futures Channel also illustrates the diversity of math and science and that they are truly everywhere."

"The education system as a whole needs the real world connection. The world of high-tech science is looking for creativity and talent, which test scores do not always measure," said Dr. Richard Shope, a professor of science education at Loyola Marymount University and science research analyst at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "STEM-savvy curriculum developers can help teachers by making these connections."

Scientific Learning Offers Free Brain Fitness Exercises

Scientific Learning(R) have joined Google's Literacy Project to provide free learning software, videos, and lessons. The Literacy Project is an online resource for teachers created in collaboration by Google, LitCam and UNESCO's Institute for Lifelong Learning.

As a project team member, Scientific Learning will supply The Literacy Project with "BrainApps(TM)," interactive, challenging brain fitness exercises for students in grades K -- 12. Brain fitness exercises can help develop and strengthen both the cognitive skills and reading skills essential for academic success. In addition, Scientific Learning will also provide videos showing how brain fitness can accelerate learning and classroom activities that guide a student's exploration of their brain.

"Literacy is a challenge that touches all countries. There is a pressing need to share tools and research on how neuroscience principles can help solve the literacy crisis here, and throughout the world," said Robert C. Bowen, chairman and CEO of Scientific Learning. "We are excited to join The Literacy Project to provide our brain fitness tools and research and get it into the hands of more educators around the world."

The Literacy Project is a resource for teachers, literacy organizations and anyone interested in reading and education, created in collaboration with LitCam, Google, and UNESCO's Institute for Lifelong Learning. It includes books, scholarly articles, literacy videos, innovative projects, books and literacy blogs, book clubs and groups, and a customized search engine to find literacy-related documents on the web. Website: http://www.google.com/literacy

The Connection Between Preschool Literacy and Music Instruction

There is more reason now than ever to cultivate your child's mind with music. Researchers have come together to indicate a positive correlation between music and literacy in young children, furthering the advocacy of educational play.

The research, summarized by Assistant Professor Jonathan Bolduc of the University of Ottowa, outlines several studies and experiments over the past twenty years in both American and Canadian education. This literature review compares thirteen correlating studies, all of which show that music education may effectively contribute to reading and writing skills in young children, despite the presence of learning difficulties.

In the piece, "The Effects of Music Instruction on Emergent Literacy Capacities among Preschool Children: A Literature Review," Bolduc hypothesizes that "children who participate in musical and first-language interdisciplinary programs develop phonological awareness, word recognition, and invented spelling abilities more efficiently than their classmates who do not participate in such programs." In addition, Bolduc asserts the further development of auditory perception, phonological memory, and meta cognitive knowledge. The former three components are crucial in early childhood development of linguistics.

"It is essential to propose different methods to introduce these young learners to written language before they begin their schooling," says Bolduc of early childhood education. "Because music education offers a holistic type of education that may facilitate the development of listening and analysis abilities, it can be used as an efficient complementary educational approach."

YourStageInc.com is one of the leading providers of children's educational toys for children of all ages. In addition to products that cultivate cognitive development through imaginative play, musical toys are also available through YourStageInc.com. Musical instruments, karaoke equipment, and sing-a-longs are just a few of the educational tools found at YourStageInc.com to prepare children prior to preschool.

Website: YourStageInc.com

New Program Teaches Preschoolers Reading Skills, Getting Along With Others

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies shows that it's possible to teach preschoolers the pre-reading skills they need for later school success, while at the same time fostering the socials skills necessary for making friends and avoiding conflicts with their peers.

The findings address long standing concerns on whether preschool education programs should emphasize academic achievement or social and emotional development.

"Fostering academic achievement in preschoolers need not come at the expense of healthy emotional development," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which provided much of the funding for the study. "This study shows that it's possible to do both at the same time."

The study appears in the November/December issue of Child Development and was conducted by Karen Bierman, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Psychology at Penn State University.

In recent years, education officials and researchers who study early childhood education have struggled with whether to emphasize academics in preschool programs or to instead try to advance preschoolers' social skills, explained the NICHD project officer for the study, James Griffin, Ph.D., deputy chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch. The current study marks the first attempt to develop a curriculum that addresses both concerns equally, Dr. Griffin added.

In the study, the researchers compared the progress of students who received a traditional Head Start curriculum to those who received a curriculum with enhancements in the areas of social and emotional learning and pre-reading skills. The new program is known as the REDI (Research-Based, Developmentally Informed) Head Start program. The researchers developed the REDI curriculum by combining a program that fosters social and emotional development (Preschool PATHS) with curriculum components that promote language development and pre-reading skills. A program of the Administration for Children and Families, Head Start fosters school readiness through the provision of comprehensive services, including education, health, mental health, parent involvement, nutrition and services to children with disabilities.

Like traditional preschool programs, the REDI program emphasizes such pre-reading skills as learning the alphabet, and learning to manipulate the sounds that letters represent. Earlier research has shown that children with such skills are more successful at learning to read than are children who lack them. The REDI program also allows ample time for teachers to read interactively with children, asking them questions and encouraging their active involvement in story telling, which builds the vocabulary and language skills needed for later school success.

In the REDI program, many of the reading sessions focus on social problems and involve fictional characters who learn to master the emotional frustrations and conflicts common among groups of preschoolers. For example, in one lesson, Twiggle the Turtle learns techniques for controlling his temper. An older turtle happens by after Twiggle has just shoved a classmate who knocked over his building blocks. The older turtle teaches Twiggle, that, instead of shoving someone, he should go into his shell, take a deep breath, say what's bothering him, and say how it makes him feel. From this, the children learn that when a conflict erupts, they stop what they're doing, cross their arms, take a deep breath, state the problem, and tell the other child how it makes them feel.

"The lesson teaches them to take a time out from their emotions, to avoid acting impulsively," Dr. Bierman said. "Stating what's bothering them, and how they feel, is the basis for self control and problem solving in stressful social situations."

Other lessons involve learning how to recognize such emotions as anger and sadness in oneself and others, sharing, and taking turns.

The study took place at 44 Head Start centers in Central Pennsylvania. Half the centers used the REDI program enhancements, half used the traditional Head Start program without the enhancements.

When compared to children in the traditional Head Start program, children in the REDI program scored higher on several tests of emotional and social development than did children in the traditional program. This included skills in recognizing emotions in others, and responding appropriately to situations involving a conflict. Moreover, parents of children in the REDI group reported fewer instances of impulsivity, aggression and attention problems than did parents of children in the traditional program.

Children in the REDI program also scored higher than children in the traditional program on several tests of pre-reading skills: vocabulary, blending letter sounds together to form words, separating words into their component letter sounds, and in naming the letters of the alphabet.

Support for the study was administered by the NICHD, with funding provided by the agencies participating in the federal Interagency School Readiness Consortium, which includes the NICHD, the Administration for Children and Families, the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services of the U.S. Department of Education.

Source: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/

Reading Can Help Obese Kids Lose Weight

It's no secret that reading is beneficial. But can it help kids lose weight? In the first study to look at the impact of literature on obese adolescents, researchers at Duke Children's Hospital discovered that reading the right type of novel may make a difference.

The Duke researchers asked obese females ages nine to 13 who were already in a comprehensive weight loss program to read an age-appropriate novel called Lake Rescue (Beacon Street Girls). It was carefully crafted with the help of pediatric experts to include specific healthy lifestyle and weight management guidance, as well as positive messages and strong role models.

Six months later, the Duke researchers found the 31 girls who read Lake Rescue experienced a significant decrease in their BMI scores (-.71 percent) when compared to a control group of 14 girls who hadn't (+.05 percent), explained Alexandra C. Russell, a fourth-year medical student at Duke who led the study and presented the findings at the Obesity Society's annual scientific meeting.

"As a pediatrician, I can't count the number of times I tell parents to buy a book that might provide useful advice, yet I've never been able to point to research to back up my recommendations," says Sarah Armstrong, MD, director of Duke's Healthy Lifestyles Program where the research took place. "This is the first prospective interventional study that found literature can have a positive impact on healthy lifestyle changes in young girls."

Obesity is becoming more prevalent in children, according to the CDC, which reports that 16 percent of children ages six to 19 are overweight or obese, a number that has tripled since 1980. Researchers are looking at a variety of ways to help kids stay healthy, lose weight, and be more active, but Armstrong says, "most don't work very well. The weight loss options that are effective typically involve taking powerful medications with side effects, or require permanent surgical procedures."

While the BMI decrease attributed to the book is small, Armstrong says any decrease in BMI is encouraging because BMI typically increases in children as they grow and develop. That's okay as long as it follows a normal, progressing curve. In overweight kids, however, BMI usually increases more rapidly. "If their BMI percentile goes down, it means they are they are either losing weight or getting tall and not gaining weight. Both are seen as positive indicators in kids who are trying to lose weight," she explains.

The idea that a book can positively influence weight loss and decrease BMI is "encouraging because it's fairly easy to implement," she added. "And it's a welcome addition to a world where there aren't a lot of alternatives."

Terrill D. Bravender, MD, chief of adolescent health at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH, contributed to this research during his tenure at Duke.

Source: http://www.dukehealth.org/

Recorded Books to Release New Reading Program for Elementary Grades

Recorded Books announced the upcoming release of its newest reading and writing program, Dr. Janet Allen's Plugged-in to Nonfiction for grades 4-5. Levels 1-3 of the program, developed for grades 5-12, have already been successfully implemented in over 1,200 classrooms across the country.

Plugged-in to Nonfiction Grades 4-5 includes a collection of high-interest texts and audiobooks for students who struggle with fluency and pronunciation. The program is designed to help students develop the necessary skills to tackle nonfiction text found on standardized tests and in real world situations. Each lesson teaches effective strategies such as monitoring understanding, activating background knowledge, and identifying and using content/specialized vocabulary.

"We hope that by offering a variety of scaffolds, students will read a greater quantity of books and more difficult texts," says Vice President Donna Carnahan, Executive Editor for Recorded Books. "We want to help teachers beat the '4th-grade slump.'"

The collection of titles in Plugged-in to Nonfiction includes the International Reading Association's Children's Book Award winner My Freedom Trip and best-selling favorites like Hana's Suitcase, The Daring Book for Girls and Horrible Science: Angry Animals. The program will be officially released in January 2009, but Recorded Books is accepting orders now.

Website: http://www.pluggedintoreading.com/

Newsfilm Online Gives Students and Teachers Unprecedented Access to Archive Footage

Newsfilm Online (http://www.nfo.ac.uk/) gives students and staff in academic institutions unprecedented access, free of charge, to more than 65,000 film and television news stories online – the equivalent to 3,000 hours of moving image material from 1910 to 2006. The new service also includes 10 million stills and associated catalogue data from ITN Source -- the ITN/Reuters Archive -- one of the world's largest newsfilm collections.

Newsfilm Online is the outcome of a landmark, three-year collaboration between academia, the broadcasting industry and the public sector, namely the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC), ITN and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) which funded the initiative with £2.3 million of capital investment.

Murray Weston, Chief Executive of the BUFVC says: "The launch of Newsfilm Online is the result of significant public investment. This commitment recognises the value of providing long-term access to archive moving image content for learning."

"Archive newsfilm is an essential resource for researchers, and much-valued by teachers and students across a diverse range of subject disciplines. The Newsfilm Online collection includes individual news stories, unreleased content, single subject documentaries and unedited footage as well 25,000 items of supporting content, such as scripts and running orders."

Weston continues: "Newsfilm is among the most dominant media to have influenced public opinion during the 20th and 21st centuries. It is a record of people, places, attitudes and events of significant historical, social and cultural importance: from the Wall Street Crash in 1929 to the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, and from the Queen's Coronation in 1953 to the Miner's Strikes of 1984.BUFVC has been championing the importance of newsreels and its use in academia for the last 60 years, much of which we had to salvage from tips!"

The downloadable content from Newsfilm Online can be held locally and delivered in learning environments both in and out of the lecture theatre. It can be used for independent research as well as integrated into teaching materials across a range of topics and academic levels. The massive extent of material available allows for access to news stories whose eventual value and magnitude may not have been recognised at the time of initial broadcast. Similarly available are news stories of great importance on their original transmission, which have since been relegated to obscurity.

Although only staff and students at subscribing institutions will have unlimited access to the 65,000 film items, the 10 million stills and supporting information can also be searched and browsed by the public via www.nfo.ac.uk. This online service was created and is hosted by the national data centre EDINA at the University of Edinburgh.

New Social Networking Site for Educational Institutions and Teachers

The Schools United, the first social networking site dedicated to the education community, announces its recent launch. Designed to facilitate school networking on a global level, the site provides educational institutions and their staff members a meeting place for the sharing of materials, experiences and more - for free.

"With the launch of The Schools United, anyone in the field of education anywhere in the world, has an established, enthusiastic community of colleagues at their fingertips, ready to share information and resources pertinent to the field of teaching, and support one another in their teaching careers," says Christopher Jubb, creative director of The Schools United.

All schools in the network feature their own profile page. Among other highlights, the profile displays information such as location, number of students and type (primary, secondary, etc.). Profile pages can also display staff users, latest activities and a mini-blog for posting comments. Recent photos and videos can also be shown. Each profile is accessible by all users of the site, regardless of whether or not profiles are linked to one another. Some profile data, such as e-mail address and telephone numbers, is restricted and can only be accessed by linked users.

Once registered, the account administrator can add teachers and other staff users to the profile, creating a network where every user is instantly linked to others with similar interests, issues or ideas. Each staff user receives personal login details to access the profile. Various communities on the social network allow educators with a common interest, such as geography, music or math, to share their resources, opinions and experiences in the field.

"At The Schools United, teachers and educators have the opportunity to form friendships with others across the globe, enabling all users to enhance their skills as instructors and have a dependable community where likeminded individuals are readily accessible to help one another succeed in their career," Christopher Jubb says.

Website: http://www.theschoolsunited.com/

Call for Applications: The Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence

Amgen is accepting applications for its 18th annual Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence (AASTE). This award is designed to recognize and honor extraordinary science teachers at the K-12 level who significantly impact their students through exemplary science teaching and who achieve demonstrated results in student learning in communities where Amgen operates.

With a longstanding commitment to science education, Amgen established the teacher awards program to promote and encourage science excellence in public and private schools. Since the program's inception in 1992, Amgen has awarded more than $2 million to educators who have made exceptional science-teaching contributions and who have significantly impacted the lives of their students.

Amgen is expanding its program this year, and will honor a total of 34 teachers in California, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Washington and Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec). In addition, a new streamlined web-based application will be available this year.

"At Amgen, we believe that extraordinary teachers can inspire a passion for science," said Phyllis Piano, vice president, Corporate Communications and Philanthropy at Amgen. "Since the beginning of the AASTE program more than 200 teachers have been honored for their dedication, and we look forward to celebrating the achievements of this year's recipients."

The 34 selected winners within the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada will receive the following benefits:

-- An unrestricted cash award of $5,000USD or $5,000CAD; and

-- A restricted $5,000USD or $5,000CAD cash grant to the recipient's school for the expansion or enhancement of a school science program, science resources, or the professional development of the school's science teachers.

Applicants are required to submit an innovative lesson plan that they have successfully incorporated into their classroom and that can be shared with other teachers. A panel of independent judges will select the winners based on the following criteria: creativity and effectiveness of teaching methods; innovative lesson plan; and the plan for the use of grant money to improve science education resources in their schools.

A select number of the lesson plans submitted by 2009 AASTE Award winners will be posted to Amgen's Website, with the intent that other teachers will benefit from these innovative materials. Select lesson plans from 2007 and 2008 AASTE Award winners are available for download at no cost; educators are encouraged to review and implement any of these plans into their own curriculum.

Those interested in applying should visit http://www.amgen.com/citizenship/aaste.html for more information. The application can be completed online and French and Spanish applications are available in PDF format. Applications must be submitted by Feb. 2, 2009 to be valid. Winners will be notified in between April and June 2009.

Disaster Recovery Grants Available for Adult and Family Literacy Programs

The Barbara Bush Texas Fund for Family Literacy and the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL) in the College of Education and Human Development will be offering disaster recovery grants for Texas adult and family literacy programs adversely affected by Hurricane Ike and the Rio Grande flooding in September 2008.

"Even though the actual storm has passed, the effects are still being felt across Texas," said former first lady Barbara Bush.

"Many literacy programs in the state have lost their buildings, supplies and in some places, their students. Workers have been displaced by the hurricane and must learn new trades. The grants will supply immediate and direct relief to alleviate damages caused by the storm, as well as help provide countless people with the knowledge and reading skills to succeed in the years to come."

The short-term grant program will award up to 15 in-state literacy programs one-time recovery grants ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 to cover specific, identified costs related to Hurricane Ike or the Rio Grande flooding. These costs might include replacement of lost furnishings; equipment or instructional materials not covered by insurance; out-of-pocket expenses to repair buildings; rental of temporary classroom space; outreach and recruitment expenditures to rebuild program enrollment; and temporary additional personnel costs.

Programs requesting recovery grants will need to complete an application process. The recovery grant application, eligibility criteria and more information about the application process will be available at http://www-tcall.tamu.edu/. The application deadline is Friday, Nov. 14 at 5 p.m.

Grant award decisions will be announced Monday, Dec. 1.

For more information, email Federico Salas-Isnardi at fsalas-isnardi@tamu.edu or contact Harriet Vardiman Smith at 800.441.7323.

"Teachers and Technology" Grants Offer $25,000 for Classroom Tech Tools

For the past two years, teachers in Wyoming have taken technology to the head of the class for their students. Powell High School students have used GPS to map invasive plants on Heart Mountain. Fifth- and sixth-graders in Casper became treasure hunters and unearthed geological landmarks. And a kindergarten class in Rock Springs learned the basics of reading and writing with PDAs.

To continue these high-tech triumphs, the Qwest Foundation today announced that for the third consecutive year, Wyoming teachers can compete for a share of $25,000 in grants for their technology-related classroom projects. The Qwest Teachers and Technology grant program will award grants to three Wyoming teachers who put today's technology to use for their students.

"Technology plays a leading role in today's world, and because of the innovative ideas of our state's teachers, it will star in Wyoming classrooms as well," said Michael Ceballos, Qwest president for Wyoming. "Putting technology into the hands of our students advances their skills today and prepares them for tomorrow."

The Qwest Teachers and Technology grants will be awarded to teachers through a competitive process administered by the Wyoming Department of Education. The top three technology-related projects will receive the following award amounts:

1st place: $12,000
2nd place: $8,000
3rd place: $5,000

The grant application deadline is Feb. 1, 2009; educators may download applications at http://www.k12.wy.us/. The funds may be used to purchase supplies or to support professional development needs; funds may not be used to pay salaries or stipends.

The OLA Annual Forest of Reading Program

Thousands of schools and libraries across Ontario are ready to register for the OLA Annual Forest of Reading Program. More than 250,000 children and teenagers will then start reading and considering their vote for best books. The hotly anticipated lists of Canadian books are now available on the OLA web site at: www.accessola.com/reading.

The Forest of Reading is a children's choice award program, run by the Ontario Library Association, in which Ontario students read at least five books selected for their age range. They then vote for their favourites on the official voting day in April. A committee of librarians and teacher librarians from public and school libraries choose the titles.

"The program is all about kids enjoying reading," stated Lisa Weaver, Chair, and Forest of Reading. "And the voting part stimulates a lot of conversation with the young readers about why they like certain books."

The reading programs and categories are the Blue SpruceTM Award (kindergarten to grade 3), the Silver Birch® Awards (fiction and non-fiction for grades 4 to 6), the Red MapleTM Award (grades 7 and 8), and the White PineTM Award (high school), New for the 2009 festival will be the addition of Le Prix TamarackTM award (French language books for grades 4 to 6).

Two programs are also available for adult readers; the Golden OakTM Award (adults learning to read) and the Evergreen Award (adult library patrons). The program annually culminates in the Festival of Trees, two action-packed days of award ceremonies, workshops, and entertainment. The event will take place May 13-14, 2009 at the Harbourfront Centre for its third year in a row.