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August 2008: Back to School for Parents and Teachers

Teachers are prepping lesson plans and transforming their classrooms into welcoming spaces. Parents are filling carts with pens, pencils, paper — and readying their kids for the big first day. Energy and excitement around the new school year is building! Take a look at our classroom and at-home resources to help you launch a year of reading, learning, and discovery.

In this issue:

In focus

Bright Ideas for Back-to-School Night — and Beyond

Back-to-school night is big event on the school calendar. This opportunity for parents and teachers to meet and connect deserves special attention. We've gathered up a backpack full of materials and resources to help make the most of back-to-school night — and set the tone for a great school year together.

Go to back-to-school night resources >

The 90-Minute Reading Block

Research shows that students need at least 90 minutes of uninterrupted reading instruction each day to make progress in reading skill development. Effective instruction should be both explicit and differentiated. Here's how to set up a productive 90-minutes.

Organizing for Effective Reading Instruction >

Example of a 90-Minute Reading Block >

Creating a Welcoming Classroom for ELLs

Imagine what it would be like to step into a classroom where you didn't understand the language, routines, or expected behavior. This is what it feels like for many young English language learners. Here's how you can help make the transition to this new world as smooth as possible for your ELLs.

Go to article >

It's important to reach out to the parents of your ELLs, too. Meet Angelica Torres who was apprehensive at first about volunteering at her child's school. She loved it and now encourages other parents to get involved.

Watch video >

Looking at the Literacy Coach

Many school districts have adopted coaching — including literacy coaching — to improve instruction and student learning. This brief describes the characteristics of a successful coach and how to select, prepare, and evaluate coaches.

Go to article >

Who's Who in Your Child's School

There are many people at your child's school who are there to help your child learn, grow socially and emotionally, and navigate the school environment. Here's a selected list of who’s who at your school: the teaching and administrative staff as well as organizations at the district level. You might want to keep this list handy all year long.

Go to article >

My Child's Academic Success

The U.S. Education Department provides these tips for parents about how to be involved in your child's school, and what to do if problems arise. Work with your child's teacher and school to keep the lines of communication open.

Go to article >

Books and authors

Reading the Pictures: Graphic Novels for Younger Children

In a graphic novel, visuals drive the story. The cinematic, detailed, and expressive illustrations help children, including many reluctant readers, unlock a story's plot and characters. Meet Magic Pickle, Fashion Kitty, Polo, and a band of other heroes in this eclectic mix of books for adventurous kids ages 3-9.

Go to booklist >

Gene Yang: The Making of a Graphic Novel

The magic of comics takes place between the panels, says Yang, a high school teacher and award-winning graphic novelist. His book American Born Chinese received the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature, and was a finalist for the National Book Award — both firsts for a graphic novel. Watch as Yang demonstrates the steps in his writing and drawing process.

Watch video >

Selecting Great Informational Books for Kids

Children are naturally curious about the world. Take advantage of this inquisitiveness! Expose children to a variety of informational text that will stimulate development of background knowledge, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. In this article, take an imaginary trip to a children’s museum and learn how to choose quality, high-interest informational books for young readers.

Go to article >

Research and News

Indicators of Well-Being Report

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics released the 2008 "America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being" report. The report is organized across seven sections, each relevant to children's lives, including family and social environment, education, behavior, and economic circumstances. The Children at a Glance pages in the back provide succinct data from each section.

Access the report >

Background TV Impacts Kids' Attention

The current issue of Child Development includes a small study on the effect of background TV on the play behavior of very young children. Researchers concluded that having the TV on, even in the background, reduced the amount of time children spent playing as well as reduced their attention during play. The findings encourage parents and caregivers to consider the cumulative effects of these behaviors over time.

Read the full study >

Full vs. Part-Day Kindergarten: Do Effects Fade?

Reported in Science Daily, data from a longitudinal study suggest that children in full-day kindergarten have slightly better reading and math skills than children in part-day kindergarten, but that these initial academic benefits diminish soon after the children leave kindergarten. Researchers conclude that this loss is due, in part, to issues related to poverty and the quality of the home environments.

Read the full study >

Guide for Evaluating Online Learning

The U.S. Department of Education released its first guide that evaluates online-learning programs in K-12 education. With at least 42 states having significant online programs for students in K-12, this guide outlines the challenges and strategies for success.

Read the report >

For Teachers

Picture Book of the Day

You'll love this site! Author Anastasia Suen posts about a picture book each day. She provides a summary of the book and ways the book can be incorporated into literacy lessons for primary, intermediate, and secondary classrooms. Lots of great ideas and resources here.

Go to website >

Most Promising Educational Technologies

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) chose 10 "most promising" educational technologies. Among the new and emerging educational technologies highlighted: a free website that uses song lyrics to motivate students to read and write, a platform for learning English that adapts to each user, and a "touch interface" for launching digital materials from printed textbooks.

See the full list >

Rethinking Reading at Home

If you've been reading our blogs, you know that we struggle with the best way to have kids read at home. Our friends at Choice Literacy have an idea that's worth considering: a monthly calendar with a rubric for assessing the frequency, the variety of genres represented, and who took responsibility for the reading. It's an interesting twist on a familiar idea!

Go to website >

For Parents

Let the Olympic Games Begin!

The summer Olympic games, hosted by China, begin on August 8th with more than 10,500 athletes competing for medals. Education World compiled fun Olympic activities that involve kids in the games! Ideas include creating Olympic graphs, medals, Olympic rings and torches, as well as a system for tracking the results of various sports.

Go to Olympic activities >

Child Development: PBS Parents Style

PBS Parents offers a helpful guide to child development. Parents or caregivers begin by selecting a child's age. Detailed child development information is provided, as well as ideas for literacy, math, PE, science, and more. Another helpful resource is a list of PBS shows that might appeal to children that age.

Go to PBS child development website >

Scribbling or a Masterpiece?

Even very young children love to use a crayon or pencil to make marks on paper. These very first efforts at writing provide a perfect opportunity to encourage your child's writing and creativity. An article from Zero to Three describes the stages most children go through in their writing development. Find out what you can do to encourage art and writing skills at home.

Go to Zero to Three article >

Featured Partner

National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)

PTA's mission is to be a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for the education and well-being of every child. Browse the PTA website for resources, advocacy, and membership information.

Ultimate Back-to-School Guide for Parents >

Resources in Spanish >

Customizable PTA Parent Calendar >

Join Reading Rockets on Facebook

Getting Ahead: Reading and Writing

Empowering Parents: Reading Rockets Parents' Guide

Sister site - adlit.org

Daily Quiz Fun: Children's Literature

Who put little Pussy in the well?

Enter today's children's literature fun quiz for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com!

Go to quiz >

Memorable Quote

When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.

— Maya Angelou

A Sneak Peek at
What's Coming Up

Did you know our website is always updated on the first of each month? Stop by on September 1 and you'll discover resources for parents and teachers about early literacy and preschool (including the online premiere of our newest PBS show Toddling Toward Reading) family/school collaboration, Hispanic Heritage Month — and much more.

Go to homepage >

All the best from Reading Rockets

Noel Gunther
Executive Director

Christian Lindstrom
Director, Learning Media

Shalini Anand
Technical Web Manager

Kelly Andrews
Project Coordinator

Katie Chase
Associate Editor

Tina Chovanec
Manager, Reading Rockets

Kevin Coonce

Kelly Deckert
Web Producer

Ashley Gilleland
Associate Producer

Sun Kim
Web Coordinator

Alan Lundy-Ponce
Director, Learning Media Websites

Joanne Meier, Ph.D.
Research Consultant

Laura Schreiber
Project Associate

Rachael Walker
Outreach Consultant

Newsletter editors: Joanne Meier
Tina Chovanec

About Reading Rockets

Reading Rockets is a national educational service of WETA, the flagship public television and radio station in the nation's capital. The Reading Rockets project is comprised of PBS television programs, available on videotape and DVD; online services, including the websites ReadingRockets.org, ColorinColorado.org, LDOnLine.org, and AdLit.org; and professional development opportunities such as teleconferences and webcasts.

Reading Rockets is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The goal of the project is to provide information on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help. Learn about easy ways you can link to us to let others know about the many free resources available from Reading Rockets.

To read past issues:

Go to http://www.readingrockets.org/newsletters/rrnews/past

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Go to http://www.readingrockets.org/newsletters and scroll down to "How to manage your subscription options." Login and you'll be taken to the sign-up page where you can change your settings so you'll receive future newsletters in plain text format with visible links.

Subscribe to other e-newsletters:

Stay informed! You're welcome to subscribe to free e-mail newsletters from our sister websites — LD OnLine (on learning disabilities and ADHD issues), Colorín Colorado (on teaching English language learners), and AdLit.org (on adolescent literacy, grades 4-12).

To contact us:

Send your questions, comments, or suggestions to readingrockets@weta.org. Our mailing address is WETA/Reading Rockets, 2775 S. Quincy St., Arlington, VA 22206. We look forward to hearing from you!

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