Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Little Engine That Must: Inspiring Young Readers

I just spent a terrific hour talking with J. Renee Gordon of the BlogRadio show,  
Empowering Educators.

We talked about

- the importance of early childhood learning in both preschools/child care centers and at home

- what is essential for kindergarten readiness (and partnerships that foster that) and

- placed a special focus on literacy for children ages 3-6.

Whether you joined us live on the show or want to listen to the podcast later, you'll find information and resources right here.

Findings of The National Early Literacy Panel (2009)

Six early skills predictive of later literacy achievement

1. Alphabet knowledge
2. Phonological awareness
3. Rapid automatic naming of letters or digits
4. Rapid automatic naming of objects or colors
5. Writing or writing name
6.  Phonological memory

Five early skills modernately predictive of later literacy achievement

1. Concept of print
2. Print knowledge
3. Reading readiness (usually a combination of alphabet knowledge, concepts of print, vocabulary, memory and PA)
4. Oral language
5. Visual processing

Studies conducted by Hart and Risley (1995) showed that three-year-old children of professional parents had larger vocabularies than children of parents on welfare.  This finding is less shocking when considered in light of another:  children in professional homes heard 382 words an hour while children raised in welfare homes heard an average of 167 words an hour.  There can be a gap of as much as five times greater in vocabulary between these two groups by the time children reach kindergarten.  This doesn't have to be economically driven, if we can help families, in a supportive way to experience literacy with their children.  If you'd like to do more reading on this research, check out this summary of Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children or find the book itself (a good choice for staff development discussions at your school.  .

On average, according to the American Association of Pediatrics, preschool children watched 2.6 hours of TV on weekdays and 2.7 hours on weekends.  This association, however, recommends that children under 2 years old watch little or no TV.

Here are additional resources to check out on these topics:

PreK Now is an advocates of high quality early childhood experiences for young children

Harlem Children's Zone - 100% of their children are ready for kindergarten for the 7th consecutive year!

100% of third graders at Promise Academies I and II tested at or above grade level on the math exam, and in the English and Language Arts (ELA) over 93% of the Promise Academy I third graders tested at or above grade level, outperforming New York State, New York City and District 5 peers.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children addresses the needs and education of children ages zero to eight.

Want to be inspired?  Visit  You might start with The Power of Teaching

Don't forget to visit Share A Story:  Shape A Future.   Whether you are a parent or a teacher or just someone how loves children and wants to share the incredible gift of literacy with a child, you should visit this live, week-long (March 8-12) virtual event sponsored by my friends at
The Reading Tub.

While you're on the inspiration channel, join my revolution!   

Whether you are a parent or an educator, you CAN make a difference with your child (or children) when it comes to reading.  The first step is to ENGAGE them, reach out to families and schools and children with the message that reading IS for everyone.  These tools will help you do just that.

Educators, librarians and parents can all benefit from this annotated list of over 180 picture books that can be used with 5-18 year olds to introduce knowledge as a base to understanding textbook contents in science, history, art, math, etc.

Extensive indexing gives educators, librarians and parents a variety of ways to use a picture book a day with great results. The 1-180 listing also provides a convenient "one picture book for each day" approach that follows many familiar themes (such as Grandparent's Day, winter holidays, etc.) throughout the school year.
Available through

Two guidebooks, designed to be used in tandem, one for preschool and kindergarten teachers (Before They Read) and the other for parents of 3-6 year olds (Anytime Reading Readiness).

Here's what others say:

“If you want to turn your preschooler into a lifelong reader, you need Anytime Reading Readiness. It skillfully guides parents as they create a pressure-free love of language and learning in their child.” – Susan Newman, Ph.D., social psychologist and author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day

“This book is chock full of great suggestions for helping children learn how to read. It includes all you need to put together a wonderful research-based program—a must-read.”
—Susan B. Neuman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

Final Words

In closing let me invite you to post your own comments about these topics and to share my parent blog full of fun, practical ideas and information, as well as this teacher blog, with those you know who play those roles. 

One question to ponder that arose during the show:

Does coloring have anything to do with literacy development?  Is there research out there to address this question?

My sense was that it is certainly a pre-writing experience that builds muscles in the hands.  I also know the importance of eye-hand coordination in coloring and in reading, so I see some anecdotal connections there.  If you know of any research, please share it.  Here's a good article about how learning across many spectrums works in early childhood, from ReadingOnline.

Are you inspired?   

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