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September 2008: Starting Out Bright: Early Literacy and Preschool

Long before young children learn to read, they are practicing critical pre-reading skills: discovering the world of print, holding a book and turning its pages, recognition of letters and the sounds of speech, rhyming, word play, and "scribble" writing. To learn more about how to help emergent readers master these skills, visit Reading Rockets' comprehensive collection of preschool resources, for parents, preschool teachers, and caregivers.

In this issue:

In focus

Our Newest PBS Show: Toddling Toward Reading

We once thought a child's education started in kindergarten — but that could be years too late. Hosted by Reba McEntire, Toddling Toward Reading looks at what it takes to give our preschoolers the early literacy skills they need to become successful readers. With stories from communities across the U.S., you'll meet the dedicated parents, teachers, and researchers who are discovering how to give our children the best start to becoming lifelong learners. You'll also have the chance to visit children's book author and illustrator Sandra Boynton at her colorful farmhouse studio, where she creates all those delightful animal characters.

Toddling Toward Reading

The Purposeful Pre-K Classroom

When you walk into a high-quality pre-K classroom you see learning everywhere. Learn what elements are critical to providing the sense of purpose, organization, and energy that creates the best results for children.

Go to pre-K article >

Get Ready to Read Screening Tool

Try this 10-minute screening tool, designed for four-year-olds, to find out if they are on track for learning how to read. For more information about the Get Ready to Read (GRTR) program, visit the GRTR website.

Go to screening tool >

¡Celebre! Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic culture revolves around the family, with a rich tradition of music, dance, and storytelling. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 with these games, activities, and book lists from our bilingual sister site, Colorín Colorado.

Go Hispanic Heritage Month resources >

Browse our carefully chosen list of Latino and Spanish-language books, including Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano, a collection of beautiful bilingual poetry from Francisco Alarcon.

Go to Latino and Spanish-language book list >

Reading Rockets Wins Parents Choice Award!

We're proud to announce that the Reading Rockets website has received a 2008 Parents Choice Silver Honor Award, recognizing the site's breadth, wealth of multimedia content, and dedication "to providing adults with information to help children learn to read."

Go to Parents Choice awards page >

Books and authors

Gifted: Stories About Learning Differently

"Spectacularful ideas are always sproinging up in my brain." So says Clementine, an imaginative and high-energy third-grader girl who is always being told to "pay attention!" Get to know Clementine, Max (the smartest boy in math class), Jenny Sue (the girl with the traveling eye), and the other memorable and very real kids in these sensitive but unsentimental stories.

Go to book list >

Stars Bright, Moonlight: Our Video Interview With Denise Fleming

Rhyme and alliteration ("waddle, wade, geese parade"). Colorful verbs and vibrant illustrations cut from homemade paper. These are the distinctive qualities of Denise Fleming's award-winning picture books for very young children. Learn about Fleming's intriguing papermaking process and her careful attention to language and action words. Fleming hopes that readers will act out her books: "Picture books are like small plays," she says.

Denise Fleming

Research and News

One Day (October 2!). One Book. For Children Everywhere

Help Jumpstart break the world record for the largest shared reading experience! Jumpstart is encouraging families and schools around the globe to read Corduroy on October 2. Visit their website to register and be prepared to record the number of students who listened to Corduroy on October 2. By attempting to break last year's record of 258,000 readers, Jumpstart's Read for the Record brings national attention to the importance of Jumpstart's work in preparing children to read at an early age.

Go to Read for the Record website >

Rating the Reading Programs

What reading programs have been proven to help students in grades 2-5 succeed? The Best Evidence Encyclopedia released a report summarizing their findings. They reviewed core reading textbooks, computer-assisted instruction, and methods such as cooperative learning and classroom management programs. Programs are rated with "moderate evidence," "limited evidence," and "insufficient evidence."

Go to educator's summary >

Go to full report >

Assessing Preschool

A new report from the National Research Council on evaluation of children in preschool programs concludes that well-planned, purposeful assessments can improve teaching and contribute to better outcomes for children, but poor assessments or misuse of the test results can have negative effects on children and teachers. The report includes recommended guidelines for design, implementation, and use of assessments in early childhood programs.

Read about the report >

Access the full report >

For Teachers

English Language Learners and Academic Language

Academic language — the language used in textbooks, classrooms, and tests — is different in structure and vocabulary from everyday spoken English. Our newest professional development webcast, featuring Professor Robin Scarcella, provides an overview of academic language instruction for ELLs, effective classroom strategies, a discussion on what needs to be taught beyond vocabulary, and more.

Watch the academic language webcast >

See related article, Developing Academic Language: Got Words >

PBS Teachers Connect

Here's a new way for teachers to build community: PBS Teachers Connect! Just launched, PBS Teachers Connect is an online community of teachers exchanging ideas, resources, and instructional strategies on the integration of digital media and technology. Once you join, you'll have access to thousands of lesson plans, instructional resources, and expert blogs.

Go to website >

Online Educational Video Games

We found a nonprofit website, Academic Skill Builders, that aims to engage students using a new approach for learning basic mathematics, language arts, and vocabulary skills. Here are just a few of the language arts games available: Word Frog is a way to reinforce antonyms, synonyms, and homonyms; Capital Penguin helps reinforce states and their capitals; and Coconut Vowels provides practice in spelling.

To see the full list >

Election 2008 from Scholastic

Scholastic's election presents information about the presidential elections in a fun and compelling way. Through new interactive election games, students can campaign for the nation's highest office, balance the budget, design their own election posters, and decide how they would run the country if they were President. Kids can explore everything from campaigning to the inauguration, and teachers can use free lesson plans to expand their students' "election skills." Free lesson plans include such topics as media literacy, how to watch a debate, and how to track the election results.

Go to election website >

For Parents

A Home for My Books

Creating a library of your child's books is a great way to show her how important reading is. It will also give her a special place to keep her books and will motivate her to keep pulling books from her own library to read. Here are some ideas for getting started! To get more parent tips delivered right to your inbox each month, sign up for Reading Rockets' Ed Extras.

Go to article >

Preschool Prep: Making the Transition

Zero to Three offers parents and teachers of very young children some guidance about getting ready for those first days of preschool. Learn what you can do to make the transition easier for your child (and for you).

Go to website >

DogEared Favorites: for Kids, by Kids

National Geographic Kids launched a blog that's just for kids and book reviews. Log on to see what books kids like (and why), and encourage your own book reviewer at home! Reading the blog posts is a great way to get a sense of books you might want to find at your public library or bookstore.

Go to website >

Oprah for Kids

Oprah's book club recently expanded to include reading lists for kids. Through the help of the American Library Association (ALA), the site compiles lists of 100 titles (including both recent and "classic" titles) in five age categories: infant to two, three to five, six to nine, 10 to 12, and 12 and up. Also on the site are 10 ways to make reading fun, including giving books as gifts.

Go to website >

Featured Partner

Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a national non-profit organization that promotes early literacy by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud — in pediatric exam rooms across the nation. Doctors and nurses know that growing up healthy means growing up with books. The ROR program provides the tools to help promote children's developmental skills and later school success.

Go to website >

Joine Reading Rockets Facebook

Building the Reading Brain


Classroom newsletters

Sister site - colorincolorado.org

Daily Quiz Fun: Children's Literature

Who prepared breakfast then lost it to someone guilty of breaking and entering?

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

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

— William Butler Yeats

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 October 1 and you'll discover resources for parents and teachers about learning disabilities, IEPs, progress monitoring, family literacy activities — 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

If the links on this page aren't working:

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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