Florida Kicks Off ‘2011 Summer Literacy Adventure’

With summer vacation just around the corner, and students composing their summer lists of places to go and things to do, Florida is hoping its new initiative will make reading an essential part of that list.  As Tallahassee.com reports, this week students saw the launch of the 2011 Summer Literacy Adventure program which is designed to encourage reading over the summer months, is backed by the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of State, and the first lady, Ann Scott. 

We’ve written extensively on the importance of combating the learning loss that occurs each summer, which is why we applauded Florida’s success with last year’s Summer Reading Adventure Program.  This year, with the first lady’s encouragement, students are being asked to make a pledge to read over the summer and commit to the number of books they will finish.  “The initiative also urges students to visit their local library, and to use the website Lexile.com to identify books that might be on interest to them.”

To use Find a Book, students simply enter their Lexile measure and select their interests from the categories provided.  Find a Book will then generate a reading list for students targeted to both their reading level and area of interest.  Click here to access the Lexile Find a Book site.

Bookish: Personalizing Reading

Publisher’s Weekly announced today that Bookish, a new digital-platform for readers, will launch this summer. Like many user-driven sites, Bookish is built around collaborative filtering and will offer book recommendations to users through their profile preferences. This is very similar to sites like Pandora or Netflix, which offer suggestions based on the user’s experiences and personal preferences. Backed by large publishing names such as Simon & Schuster and Penguin Group, Bookish will be editorially independent and offer readers suggestions from all publishing houses.

“The more information readers provide the more customized the recommendations can be,” Penguin Group CEO, David Shanks said, noting that Bookish is aimed at helping readers identify books they may like from the tens of thousands published annually.

Users will be able to purchase books in print and digital formats through the site.

As we approach the end of the school year and the onset of summer, it is always encouraging to learn of new technologies that support reading. Be sure to visit our own book site, Find a Book, to create your personalized summer reading list!

School’s Out Soon. Should It Be?

Here is Duke University’s Harris Cooper offering a bold plan for education reform – extending the school year.  There’s ample evidence to support the claim that increased instructional time has a positive impact on educational progress – particularly for low-income and struggling students.  As Cooper argues, the current administration has thankfully made extending instructional time a central component of their reform agenda, but he makes a compelling case for even more:

But it is not only the summer schedule that needs rethinking. The length and organization of the school day don’t serve our children well either. Look outside a school building as the day ends and you see a queue of buses and vans waiting to transport children to empty homes or to afterschool programs.

For the past 15 years, my graduate students and I have reviewed research on school time and calendar issues. We’ve looked at summer learning loss, summer school, year-round calendars, afterschool programs and homework.

For nearly all these reforms, the evidence suggests that more learning time would have positive effects for kids – especially for poor kids and those struggling in school. But each effect is generally small, on its own.

Most recently, we examined empirical studies on the impact of lengthening the school day and year. The collective finding (and the wisdom of school calendar researchers) is that a few extra minutes here and a few extra days there won’t be enough to have the desired effect.

Instead, the increases in time have to be substantial enough that educators can adopt new curricula – and new expectations about what students should know and when they should know it. Don’t add 15 minutes a day, add an hour. Don’t add five days to the calendar, add 20. And, simultaneously, change how that time is used.

We’ve written previously on the devastating impact of summer learning loss and have argued that steps should be taken to keep the educational spigot on during the summer months.  A study by Alexander, Entwistle, & Olson (2007) revealed that students across the socioeconomic spectrum make similar gains in reading and math during the school year, but that students from low-income families stagnate or slide during the intervening summer months.  As Cooper reminds us, students from more affluent families have access to a wide array of academic activities (summer academic camps, tutoring, enrichment programs, study abroad opportunities, etc…) and often don’t experience as much learning loss as their less affluent peers (although, it’s worth noting that students across the economic spectrum experience a degree of math learning loss during the summer).

Last year, Time brought national attention to the problem of summer slide:

And what starts as a hiccup in a 6-year-old’s education can be a crisis by the time that child reaches high school.  A major study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University concluded that while students made similar progress during the school year, regardless of economic status, the better-off kids held steady or continued to advance during the summer-while disadvantaged students fell back.  By the end of grammar school, low-income students had fallen nearly three grade levels behind.  By ninth grade, roughly two-thirds of the learning gap separating income groups could be blamed on summer learning loss.

We share Cooper’s concern and would argue that any serious effort at education reform must advocate, to some degree, extending instructional time for all students.  As is becoming clear,to remain competitive the structure of educational institutions (including the amount of time dedicated to instruction) must reflect the realities of an increasingly well-educated and global landscape – not remain tied to cultural norms and practices of the past.

In the meantime, our own efforts to combat summer learning loss can be found in the free utilities and tools we offer to educators and students.  Find a Book allows students to match themselves to targeted text based on their reading level and their interests.  Once selected, students can create individualized book lists that reflect their own interests and choices.  Find a Book is linked with public libraries across the U.S., making books of interest available to all students.  Math at Home allows educators to create entire resource lists specifically targeted to a student’s math level.  And because the resources are free and online, students can continue to practice and supplement their math lessons all summer long.  It’s our hope that these resources offer all students a way to remain connected and engaged with academic material year round.

Coming Soon: E-books Available Through Your Local Library

If you own a Kindle you may soon be able to check out e-books through your local library:

Amazon is preparing a new service called Kindle Lending Library that will allow users of its popular e-reader to check out Amazonian ebooks from 11,000 neighborhood and educational libraries.

“We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” said Amazon Kindle headman Jay Marine when announcing the service, which is scheduled to launch later this year, and which will be available to all generations of Kindles, plus other platforms running Amazon’s Kindle software.

That’s good news for Kindle owners.  Kindles, in addition to other e-readers, have become more popular with young readers.  By partnering with public libraries, Amazon is providing young readers with easy access to thousands of titles.  Students will be able to read more without having to pay for titles of their choice.

Just imagine: students may soon be able to create individualized reading lists through our own Find a Book tool and then check out the e-book versions, downloading them directly onto their Kindle.

Kudos to Amazon for partnering with public libraries to get more books into the hands of readers everywhere.

Lexile Measures Added to Saddleback’s Hi-Lo Books

Saddleback Educational Publishing has joined the growing list of publishers who offer Lexile measures for their books. By adding Lexile measures to their award-winning hi-lo titles, Saddleback is helping students at lower readiness levels enjoy reading by targeting their interests and school assignments to books at the right level.

According to Tim McHugh, Saddleback’s vice president of sales and marketing, “We strive to provide educators with the finest quality curriculum materials. The addition of Lexile measures to our hi-lo books offers educators valuable information for matching students with resources that will best support positive reading experiences and the development of important comprehension skills.”

Saddleback publishes some of the most popular hi-lo books for struggling readers, including the “21st Century Life Skills” and “Urban Underground” series. Those titles that have been assigned Lexile measures are now available in the free “Find a Book” search utility, which allows readers of all ages to build custom book lists based on their interests and ability level.

Series Dominate Book Sales

In recent publishing news, Publisher’s Weekly released some recent stats regarding last year’s children’s book market. It seems that 2010 was your year if you were an author with an enticing series.  Publisher’s Weekly states, “Eighteen books for children and teens sold more than a million copies last year: all of them were from authors of big franchises…” This includes the fifth installment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Ugly Truth (1000L, series 910L-1010L). Another popular author, Stephenie Meyer made the list with her novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (680L, Meyer titles 640-720L). Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy pulled in sales from all angles last year. Her third installment, Mockingjay (800L), series 800L-820L) was released in hardback simultaneously with the audiobook. The e-book version was released six days prior to the print release and topped sales in that category as well.

Publisher’s Weekly also collected e-book sales figures for the first time in 2010. The major series also ruled this arena and pulled in the biggest sales figures – an indicator that the population of e-book readers has started to expand from adults to a younger generation of readers.

Check out our Find-A-Book website to locate these popular titles and other series for your own students.

Kentucky Celebrates Literacy

We were pleased to see that Kentucky is hosting the Kentucky Literacy Celebration this week as a way to promote reading across the state:

First Lady Jane Beshear announced Monday that the Commonwealth will have its first annual Kentucky Literacy Celebration from February 28 through March 4. In coordination with the weeklong event, Mrs. Beshear issued a special reading list as part of her ongoing “First Lady’s Reading Recommendations” initiative.
As many of you probably know, Kentucky has linked their state assessment to the Lexile Framework for Reading.  Meaning, students taking the KCCT now receive Lexile measures on their student report.  This important metric allows teachers throughout the state of Kentucky to target students at the right reading level and helps make differentiation for struggling readers a reality.
As part of the Kentucky Literacy Celebration, First Lady Beshear has offered her own reading list, compiled for all ages and across multiple interests.  As the article states, many of the books on the list can be found within our own Find a Book site. 
Congratulations to Kentucky on this important initiative.

“Find a Book” at the Mall This Weekend

This weekend, two Simon Malls in Miami will host “Kidgits Book Blast” events, and MetaMetrics will be there to talk about Lexile measures and “Find a Book, Florida.”

 Each of the seven “Book Blast” events will feature a variety of activities, giveaways and guest speakers to promote the joys of reading. MetaMetrics will be onsite for the first two events—Dadeland Mall (Feb. 11) and The Falls (Feb. 12)—to answer questions about Lexile measures and demo the free “Find a Book, Florida” search tool. These initial events will also include author Lisa McCourt who will read her popular book, “I Love You, Stinky Face,” which has a Lexile measure of AD1290L. Other McCourt titles also have been measured and are available in “Find a Book, Florida.”

“Find a Book, Florida” is a joint effort between the Florida Department of Education and MetaMetrics. The Department relaunched the search tool last September to support year-round reading by allowing students to build their own book lists based on ability level (Lexile measure) and interests.

A two-week book drive will also commence at each “Book Blast” event. Families are encouraged to donate new or gently-used books at the malls’ Guest Services Desks for two weeks following the events. Donated books will be distributed to programs and schools near the malls in conjunction with the Florida Education Foundation and the Florida Department of Education’s “Just Read, Florida!” office.

“Kidgits Book Blast” events will be held at the following locations:

  • Dadeland Mall (Miami): Friday, February 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • The Falls (Miami): Saturday, February 12, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tyrone Square (St. Petersburg): Saturday, March 5, from noon to 2 p.m.
  • Melbourne Square (Melbourne): Saturday, March 12, from 10 a.m. to noon
  • Miami International Mall (Miami): Saturday, March 12, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Coral Square (Coral Springs): Saturday, March 19, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Seminole Towne Center (Sanford): Saturday, March 19, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Families can sign up for the Kidgits Club for a membership fee of $5. Membership includes a number of benefits, like a membership card and T-shirt, scheduled entertainment and activities, discounts and a quarterly newsletter. For more information, visit www.simon.com/kidgits.

Parents Connect Kids to Books with Find a Book

We hear a lot about the various ways that schools and districts utilize The Lexile Framework for Reading and the tools and utilities on our site.  But we especially enjoy hearing about the ways that parents are using our tools to match their children to books and encourage more reading.  That’s why we love running across posts like this, posts where parent educators explain to other parents how to use our tools, like Find a Book, to help their students find more targeted books.

Celebrate Children’s Books Award Winners

Amazon recently announced the major literary award winners in Children’s literature. Here at MetaMetrics, we had the pleasure of seeing each of these titles as they were all submitted for Lexile measurement. These titles were selected and used as part of Scholastic’s Reading Counts! Program, which has been utilizing Lexile measures for several years. Reading Counts!is a Lexile-based independent program that tracks a student’s success on titles they read, in and out of the classroom. We are proud to be the de facto standard when it comes to such a well-known and widely-used reading program.

Scholastic selects these titles well before they are award-winners and incorporates them into the various levels of their program. Caldecott Winners such as A Sick Day for Amos McGee (AD760L), Interrupting Chicken (AD300L) and Dave the Potter (AD1100L-also a 2011 Coretta Scott King Award winner) were all included in the SRC! initiative. Moon Over Manifest(800L) was the Newberry Award winner which is presented annually by the American Library Association to the author of the year’s most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Congratulations to all the winners! Celebrate their achievement by checking out these wonderful titles on our Find-A-Book website.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.