Tag Archives: reading

+ Summer Vacation and Reading Development

By Joanna A. Christodoulou, Ed.D. and Fumiko Hoeft, M.D. Ph.D.

[O-G Tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Once the academic year comes to a close, students throughout the US begin a season many associate with relaxation, sunscreen, fireflies, and sprinklers. How students spend their summer vacation can differ widely, a contrast to their experiences during the school year with its focused schedules, curricula, and routines.

For willing readers, the summer offers an important opportunity to continue engaging with reading activities. For students with reading disabilities or difficulties, the summer months can offer a break from reading and its struggles. Students with developmental dyslexia—a disorder of reading acquisition and development impacting the ability to read words accurately and/or fluently—may be particularly disinclined to engage in reading activities. However, research shows that the summer months are a critical time for at-risk students to avoid the “summer slump”—the regression of ability levels.

The purpose of this article is to examine common misconceptions about summer break, identify potential concerns for our students, and highlight opportunities for readers and their families.

Why do US schools have summer vacation?

Many people believe that summer vacation originally was required so that children could support farming responsibilities in agricultural society. Kenneth Gold (2002) addresses this common myth about summer vacation with the following clarifications.

First, schooling held during the summer months was relatively common in the early to mid 1800s. In fact, school was more likely to be held during summer and winter months in rural areas to allow for planting and harvesting in the spring and fall seasons. Furthermore, school often was suspended during poor weather in the winter months when travel was difficult. These conditions made the rural school calendar inconsistent.

The school cycle we currently follow came about in an effort to make rural and urban school schedules consistent. Urban students attended school for what now would be considered an extended duration (240 or more days a year). Establishing a consistent school year with a summer vacation also accommodated the increasingly common practice of urban families taking vacations, offered relief to school budgets, and satisfied the idea that both teachers and students needed to recover from the stresses of school. Thus, a shortening of the urban school schedule and a lengthening of the rural school calendars led to the modern school calendar.

What is summer slump?

Following summer vacation, students often start the school year with less competence than they demonstrated the previous spring. This tendency to show skill regression sometimes is termed “summer slump,” “summer slide,” or “summer setback.”

One way that researchers have learned about summer slump is by observing the amount of growth on repeated assessments during two time periods, fall to spring (i.e., the school year) and spring to fall (i.e., the summer). There is less growth in the latter. On average, students lose the equivalent of one month during the summer in academic performance (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse, 1996). This estimate varies, however, depending on reading habits and grade levels, with increasing potential for summer slump as students progress through the grades and academic demands increase (Cooper, Nye, et al., 1996; Hill et al., 2007).

What risk factors contribute to summer slump?

The main risk factor for summer slump that has been researched is socioeconomic status (SES). SES indices draw on information about parental education level and current job status, with higher SES scores reflecting more education and higher paying jobs. These factors are used as direct indicators of the types of resources that may be available to children in the home environment (e.g., books in the home, enrichment activities) and indirect indicators of other factors that can affect reading habits (e.g., language spoken in the home, frequency of TV watching).

Research consistently highlights the risk for summer slump faced by children from low-SES homes relative to their mid-SES and higher-SES peers. On average, low-SES students tend to regress in reading skill, while mid-SES students maintain their placement, and high-SES students gain skills during this time (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007a; Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007b; Burkam, Ready, Lee, & LoGerfo, 2004; Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay & Greathouse, 1996; Heyns, 1987; McCoach, O’Connell, Reis, & Levitt, 2006; Mraz & Rasinski, 2007).

The implication of this widening gap is most evident when considering that while students across SES groups show largely consistent reading growth during the school year, cumulative gaps based on summer experiences can account for up to 80% of the achievement gap (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007).

To make this point more concretely, let’s consider that from September to June in grade 1, low-SES and high-SES students make the same gains on reading measures, but from June to September, low-SES students lose skills while their peers gain reading skills, depending on summer experiences. As a result, low-SES students will begin grade 2 behind their peers. Likewise, students gain the same amount of skills in grade 2, but low-SES children begin the following summer with the deficit accumulated during the previous summer.

Thus the difference in reading skills is amplified with each summer break. This research indicates that children with limited socioeconomic resources are at a disproportionately higher risk of summer slump relative to their higher-SES peers each summer and of accumulating skill deficits across summer seasons.

Low SES is one high-risk factor for summer regression. Are reading disabilities or difficulties also a risk factor for summer slump? Do struggling readers, too, lose reading skills during the summer? Although there is a paucity of research on this population, studies of related populations indicate increased risk for summer declines in reading among students eligible for special education (Shaw, 1982) or diagnosed with language impairments (Morgan, Farkas, & Wu, 2011).

In the first study to address reading development during the summer in struggling readers, Christodoulou et al. (2015) enrolled young children with reading disabilities or difficulties in early primary grades into a randomized control trial summer-reading intervention study, with half of the students assigned to an intensive reading intervention and half assigned to a waiting control group (i.e., the intervention was available to the control-group families after the 6-week study was completed).

Christodoulou et al. found that, on average, students who were not assigned to reading intervention showed significant reading skill decline based on standard scores, while those who participated in reading intervention did not make standard score gains, but maintained their reading skills. Thus, students in this study receiving intensive (100 hours) reading instruction showed positive gains from the intervention by avoiding summer slump, rather than by improving their skills. In contrast, the students who did not participate in the intervention showed a loss in reading skills.

This pattern is distinctive because it contrasts with typical intervention study outcomes that show no change in the control group and growth in the intervention group. The work of Christodoulou et al. offers insights for the community by exploring reading disability status as a factor that puts students at elevated risk of summer slump each year, and at risk of cumulative losses over time.

Avoiding summer slump is an important goal

Avoiding summer slump and fostering positive reading growth are important goals for all readers, and particularly for those at-risk due to SES or reading disability status.

Many schools, libraries, and community organizations offer summer literacy activities to promote development during this time. Current surveys report that 33% of families enroll children in a summer learning program (Afterschool Alliance, 2014). Research demonstrates the potential of summer reading programs to prevent or reduce summer slump in students with a variety of risk factors:

Reading or learning disabilities (Christodoulou et al., 2015; Cornelius & Semmel, 1982),
Low SES (Johnston, Riley, Ryan, & Kelly-Vance, 2014; Kim & Quinn, 2013), or
Low performance relative to a variety of literacy benchmarks (Zvoch & Stevens, 2011, 2013)
In fact, evidence shows positive gains for many summer programs, including those that are mandatory (for students who would otherwise be retained in the same grade) and voluntary programs that are home-based or school-based (McCombs, 2011).


The summer months are critical for overall reading development, and how children spend this time can have long-term impact on their academic outcomes. While we must consider what is best for each child individually, there is mounting evidence that some children are more likely to lose valuable skills they have established or lose opportunities to improve vulnerable skills during the summer.

Two characteristics that can put children at risk for summer slump are low socioeconomic status and having reading disabilities or difficulties. Summer slump can be avoided or reversed by participating in high quality summer learning experiences that can be delivered in academic or home settings.

The summer months offer a valuable opportunity for the community to support our struggling readers by helping students improve skillsets and by promoting an identity as a successful reader. Rather than extend the challenges that struggling readers face during the school year into the summer months, it would be critical to consider this period as one that enhances student ownership over literacy and identity as readers. We can also support struggling readers by fostering areas of interest; the motivation to learn about high-interest topics via printed text can help struggling readers overcome some barriers. This is one trait shared by successful adults with dyslexia (Fink, 1998).

Several characteristics of summer literacy programs optimize the quality and outcomes for students. These factors, as summarized by a RAND Corporation report (McCombs et al., 2011) on summer interventions, include the following:

  • Small class sizes (maximum size of 20 students) (Cooper et al., 2000)
  • Individualized instruction (Beckett, 2008; Boss & Railsback, 2002; Cooper et al., 2000)
  • High-quality instruction (Bell & Carrillo, 2007; Boss & Railsback, 2002; Denton, 2002; McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009)
  • Curricula consistent with academic goals (Boss & Railsback, 2002; McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009; Beckett, 2008)
  • Engaging and rigorous programming (Bell & Carrillo, 2007; Boss & Railsback, 2002; McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009; Beckett, 2008)
  • Maximized participation and attendance (Borman, Benson, & Overman, 2005; Borman & Dowling, 2006; McCombs, Kirby, & Mariano, 2009)
  • Sufficient duration (McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009)
  • Involved parents (Cooper et al., 2000)
  • Evaluations of effectiveness (Bell & Carrillo, 2007; Boss & Railsback, 2002; Denton, 2002; McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009; Beckett, 2008)

Recommendations for summer reading programs for school districts are available from several organizations. The RAND Corporation offers a guide with recommended practices for district leaders to start or modify summer programs (Augustine et al., 2013). The National Summer Learning Association (https://summerlearning.com) offers resources for families and communities, including activity calendars and offers of standards for how to develop and deliver effective summer programs.

More of Dr. Fumiko’s Science of Dyslexia
March 2014
New Scientific Evidence Sheds Light on the Phoneme Debate, by Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D.

July 2014
The Emerging Field of Neuroscience Is Changing the Landscape of Dyslexia Research and Practice, by Fumiko Hoeft, M.D. Ph.D., UCSF and Chelsea Myers, BSC, UCSF

September 2014
Meet Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D., Q&A with Geschwind Memorial Lecturer

December 2014
Many Layers of Dyslexia: Gene Discovery Is Just the Beginning, by Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D. and Albert Galaburda, M.D.

March 2015
The Myths and Truths of Dyslexia in Different Writing Systems, by Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D., Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Kenneth Pugh, Ph.D.


Afterschool Alliance. (2014). America after 3pm and summer learning. Retrieved from http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/documents/Summer_Learning_Pager_2014.pdf

Alexander, K. L., Entwisle D. R., & Olson L. S. (2007a). Summer learning and its implications: Insights from the Beginning School Study. New Directions for Youth Development, 114, 11–32.

Alexander, K. L., Entwisle D. R., & Olson L. S. (2007b). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167–180.

Augustine, C. H., McCombs, J. S., Schwartz, H. L., Zakaras, L. (2013). Getting to work on summer learning: Recommended practices for success. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, RR-366-WF. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR366.html

Beckett, M. K. (2008). Current-generation youth programs: What works, what doesn’t, and at what cost? Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, OP-215-GJ. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/OP215.html

Bell, S. R., & Carrillo, N. (2007). Characteristics of effective summer learning programs in practice. New Directions for Youth Development, 114, 45–63.

Borman, G., Benson, J., & Overman, L. (2005). Families, schools, and summer learning. The Elementary School Journal, 106(2), 131–150.

Borman, G. D., & Dowling, N. M. (2006). Longitudinal achievement effects of multiyear summer school: Evidence from the Teach Baltimore randomized field trial. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 28(1), 25–48.

Boss, S., & Railsback, J. (2002). Summer school programs: A look at the research, implications for practice, and program sampler. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

Burkam, D. T., Ready, D. D., Lee, V. E., & LoGerfo, L. F. (2004). Social-class differences in summer learning between kindergarten and first grade: Model specification and estimation. Sociology of Education, 77, 1–31.

Christodoulou, J.A., Cyr, A., Murtagh, J., Chang, P., Lin, J., Guarino, A.J., Hook, P., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (submitted, 2015). Impact of intensive summer reading intervention for early elementary school children with dyslexia.

Cooper, H., Charlton, K., Valentine, J. C., Muhlenbruck, L., & Borman, G. D. (2000). Making the most of summer school: A meta-analytic and narrative review. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 65(1), 1–127.

Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227–268.

Cornelius, P. L., & Semmel, M. I. (1982). Effects of summer instruction on reading achievement regression of learning. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 15(7), 409–413.

Denton, D. R. (2002). Summer school: Unfulfilled promise. Atlanta, GA: Southern Regional Education Board.

Fink, R. (1998). Literacy development in successful men and women with dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 48, 311–346.

Gold, K. M. (2002). School’s in: The history of summer education in American public schools. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Heyns, B. (1987). Schooling and cognitive development: Is there a season for learning? Child Development, 55, 6–10.

Hill, C. J., Bloom, H. S., Black, A. R., & Lipsey, M. W. (2007). Empirical benchmarks for interpreting effect sizes in research. New York, NY: MDRC. Retrieved from http://www.mdrc.org/publication/empirical-benchmarks-interpreting-effect-sizes-research

Johnston, J., Riley, J., Ryan, C., & Kelly-Vance, L. (2014). Evaluation of a summer reading program to reduce summer setback. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 1–17.

Kim, J. S., & Quinn, D. M. (2013). The effects of summer reading on low-income children’s literacy achievement from kindergarten to grade 8: A meta-analysis of classroom and home interventions. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 386–431.

McCoach, B. D., O’Connell, A. A., Reis, S. M., & Levitt, H. A. (2006). Growing readers: A hierarchical linear model of children’s reading growth during the first 2 years of school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 14–28.

McCombs, J. S., Pane, J. F., Augustine, C. H., Schwartz, H. L., Martorell, P., & Zakaras, L. (2014). Ready for fall? Near term effects of voluntary summer learning programs on low-income students learning opportunities and outcomes. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, RR-815-WF. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR815.html

McCombs, J. S., Augustine, C. H., Schwartz, H. L., Bodilly, S. J., McInnis, B., Lichter, D. S., & Cross, A. B. (2011). Making summer count: How summer programs can boost children’s learning. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, MG-1120-WF. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG1120.html

McLaughlin, B., & Pitcock, S. (2009). Building quality in summer learning programs: Approaches and recommendations. New York, NY: The Wallace Foundation.

Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., & Wu, Q. (2011). Kindergarten children’s growth trajectories in reading and mathematics: Who falls increasingly behind? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44(5), 472–488.

Mraz, M., & Rasinski, T. V. (2007). Summer reading loss. The Reading Teacher, 60(8), 784–789.

Shaw, V. T. (1982). Retention of selected reading and arithmetic skills by learning disabled pupils and non-disabled pupils over summer vacation. Unpublished master’s thesis, California State College, Stanislaus.

Zvoch, K., & Stevens, J. J. (2011). Summer school and summer learning: An examination of the short- and longer term changes in student literacy. Early Education and Development, 22(4), 649–675.

Zvoch, K., & Stevens, J. J. (2013). Summer school effects in a randomized field trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 24–32.

Fumiko Hoeft, MD Ph.D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, member of the Scientific Leadership Team for the Dyslexia Center, and Director of the UCSF Hoeft Laboratory for Educational Neurosciences (brainLENS.org) at the University of California-San Francisco. In addition, she is a Research Scientist at Haskins Laboratories and Scientific Advisor at the Center for Childhood Creativity. Dr. Hoeft’s current research program in collaboration with Yale, Vanderbilt, and other institutions in the UK, Finland, Spain, Taiwan and Israel, primarily focuses on using brain imaging and genetics to understand the mechanisms of brain development, and dyslexia—and educationally relevant concepts such as motivation, resilience, and stereotype threat. Recent honors include IDA’s Norman Geschwind Memorial Lectureship (2014) and the Transforming Education through Neuroscience Award from Learning and the Brain Foundation and International Mind Brain and Education Society (IMBES) (2015). She has published over 100 articles in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Journal of Neuroscience, and has delivered over 120 keynotes, lectures (including remarks at the White House, Dept of Ed, UNESCO, and IMBES). Her work has been covered in media such as The New York Times, NPR, CNN and The New Yorker.

Joanna A. Christodoulou, Ed.D. is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA. Her research group, the Brain, Education, and Mind (BEAM) Team, merges clinical, cognitive neuroscience and education perspectives. Current topics that the BEAM Team investigates include summer reading development and effective interventions for struggling readers (http://bit.ly/BEAMteam_FB). Her research has been supported by organizations including the Fulbright Foundation, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Spencer Foundation, and Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative at Harvard University. She is also on faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and holds a Research Affiliate position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has taught reading in school settings to struggling readers, helped develop reading curricula and assessments, and led professional development sessions internationally for a range of audiences on topics related to educational neuroscience. She was the 2014 recipient of the Transforming Education through Neuroscience Award given by the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) and the Learning and the Brain Foundation. Her publications include a co-authored overview of reading research in the book Mind, Brain, and Education: Neuroscience Implications for the Classroom (2010) and a co-edited series in the Mind, Brain, and Education Journal (2009) titled “Usable knowledge in Mind, Brain, and Education.”

Source: International Dyslexia Association Fact Sheet

visit eida.org

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com 


+ Reading Checklist

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The most recent issue of  Perspectives on Language and Literacy  is themed “Beyond Reading Recovery: What Works Best?”

The theme editor is Tom Nicholson, Professor in the School of Education at Massey University, Aukland, New Zealand.

In his summary introduction to the issue, he offers a checklist given to students, which I think could be useful as you gather information about a young reader. 

Questions About Reading

  • How good a reader do you feel yourself to be?
  • How do you feel when it is your turn to read out loud in school?
  • How do you feel when you come to a new word while reading?
  • How do you feel when you have to spell a new word that you don’t know how to spell?
  • How do you feel about getting a book for a present?
  • How do you feel about going to school?
  • How do you think you’ll feel about reading when you go to high school?
  • Would you rather clean your room or read?
  • How often do you read at home by yourself?
  • How long do you read for, after school is out and before you go to bed?
  • How many books do you have at home (just your own)?
  • When do you do most of your reading at home?
  • Can you remember the name of a book you read recently?
  • Do you like to read?

 from Tom Nicholson’s article in “Perspectives on Language and Literacy” Fall 2011.  Perspectives is a quarterly publication of the International Dyslexia Association:  www.interdys.org  

Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Dyslexia Association Creates Social Network Site for Conference

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IDA has launched a new social network created exclusively for those interested in attending the annual IDA conference on November 9-12 in Chicago.

The IDA Conference Zone allows members to interact and network with others, upload photos and videos, stay up to date on all the latest information and promotions, chat live with others online, and more! IDA Conference Zone is a safe and secure online community for attendees to connect before, during, and after the IDA conference.

We encourage you to share this with anyone else interested in attending the conference. This way they will be able to see what the conference entails and stay in tune with the latest news!

 What are you waiting for?! Follow the link below to join the Zone now!

The link to IDA Conference Zone is: http://www.idaconferencezone.ning.com


Keynote SpeakerRowland_Keynote


Pleasant Rowland is a noted educator, business leader, and philanthropist whose career began as a primary-grade teacher. Her lifelong interest in teaching children to read grew from her classroom experience and ultimately led to her authorship of reading and language arts programs used widely for years in schools across the country.

 In 2004, Ms. Rowland established the Rowland Reading Foundation which is dedicated to improving reading instruction in the primary grades. With all the challenges our nation faces today, the Rowland Reading Foundation deeply believes none is more critical than the need to solve the reading crisis.

Additionally, Ms. Rowland is infamous for the line of historically accurate books, dolls, and accessories she created known as The American Girls Collection. Ms. Rowland will give this year’s Keynote Address on Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. 


tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ New “Innovations in Reading” Prize for Teachers, Librarians and Others

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The National Book Foundation, the folks who bring us the National Book Awards, have announced the new Innovations in Reading Prize.  The prize awards up to $2,500 to individuals and institutions that have developed successful, innovative approaches to inspire Americans to become life-long and passionate readers.

Sponsored by a generous grant from The Ford Foundation, the Prize fulfills the National Book Foundation’s mission of expanding the audience for literature in America.

Prize-winning approaches will be published across the country.

Who Is Eligible:

  • Teachers, librarians, after-school and community center staff or other motivated individuals
  • Individuals and their partner institutions: schools libraries, after-school programs, and other community-based youth services organizations
  • Other non-profit organizations, including literary centers, museums, and historical societies
  • US-based corporations and their employees
  • Military personnel and bases

The Prize

  • $2500 cash award to an individual, organization or corporation; in the case of a partnership between an individual and an institution, the former will receive a $2,500 award and the latter $1,000.
  • A framed Innovations in Reading Certificate from the National Book Foundation
  • An article about the program on a special Innovations in Reading page on the NBA web site
  • An article about the program in the Foundation’s eNewsletter, which is sent to thousands of members of the literary community each month
  • An article about the program in the Foundation’s National Book Awards Gala Program, read by thousands of professionals in the literary and publishing community

Nomination Process

  • Recipients of the Innovations in Reading Prize must be nominated by two individuals familiar with their work
  • Self-nominations will be accepted if the Foundation receives two letters of support from individuals familiar with the work of the self-nominator
  • All letters of support must be sent directly to the Foundation’s office and should not be included with the application of the self-nominator.  Letter of support/nomination should be mailed (or emailed in .pdf format) to National Book Foundation, ATTN: Innovations in Reading, 95 Madison Avenue, Suite 709, New York NY 10016
  • All nominated individuals and/or institutions, whether self-nominated or nominated by a third party, must demonstrate creativity, risk-taking, and a visionary quality as well as model a novel way of presenting books and literature
  • Deadline:  All materials must be postmarked by February 15, 2009


  • The Foundation’s Executive Director and Director of Programs will review all nominations.  Those considered most promising will then be reviewed by a committee of Foundation board members and outside professionals such as writers, educators and community activists
  • Final selection will be made by the Foundation’s Board of Directors
  • Winners will be announced on May 1, 2009

For more information and to download the application, visit http://www.nationalbook.org/innovations_in_reading_2008.pdf.

The postmark deadline for all materials is February 15, 2009.

source: the National Book Foundation’s eNewsletter   www.nationalbook.org

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Beacon Street Girls: Fiction With A Healthy Message

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A new series of books intended for 9- to 13-year-old girls goes beyond stereotypes (gossip girls, cliques, shopping) and focuses on real-life issues like popularity, weight problems, alcohol and divorce.  In a recent article in the NY Times, Tara Parker-Pope reports that they can also promote healthier habits.

The stories, written under the pseudonym Annie Bryant, revolve around five middle-school girls in Brookline, Massachusetts. They are shaped by leading experts in adolescent development, with the goal of helping girls build self-esteem and coping skills.

The series was created by Addie Swartz, founder of B*tween Productions, as an antidote to the diet of sex and consumerism found in so much young adult literature these days.  They are not outselling those books, but they got a lift when Simon and Schuster children’s publishing division agreed to license, market and distribute the books worldwide. 

A study suggests that Beacon Street Girls books can make some difference for their young readers.  Researchers from the Duke medical school presented some remarkable findings on the book “Lake Rescue” at the annual scientific conference of the Obesity Society in October.

“Lake Rescue” is a Beacon Street book that focuses on the struggles of an overweight girl named Chelsea Briggs.  She is teased at school and is so self-conscious about her weight that she skips gym classes.  On a camping trip, she connects with an athletic camp counselor who was also overweight as a child.

Gaining confidence in her skills as a photographer, she is also able to help a group of lost campers and lead them to safety.  In the course of all this, she gains a renewed appreciation for fitness and eating wisely.

The researchers studied 81 girls enrolled in the university’s six-month childhood obesity program, called Healthy Lifestyles. 

Thirty-one girls were given a copy of “Lake Rescue.”  Thirty-three others got a 2006 Beacon Street book “Charlotte in Paris” that carries a positive message about self-esteem but doesn’t focus on weight or eating habits.  And seventeen received no book in the course of their Healthy Lifestyles experience.

After six months the girls who got “Lake Rescue” posted a decline in average body mass index scores of 0.71; those who didn’t read the book increased  BMI by 0.05.

That seemingly minor difference means the girls who read “Lake Rescue” will achieve a healthy weight in a few years if they maintain their regular growth rate and do not gain any more weight.

“The results of the study are not striking in how big they were — but that it worked it all,” says Dr Sarah C Armstrong, a pediatrician who directs the Healthy Lifestyles program.

“It’s such a positive, easy intervention.  The next step is to follow these girls long term.”

Researchers were also struck that the girls who read “Charlotte in Paris” also did better than the girls who didn’t receive any book at all.  The reasons are not clear, but one theory is that though reading is a sedentary activity, it does take time away from less healthful activities, like snacking in front of the TV.

Delaney Rosen, an 11-year-old sixth grader who was part of the study, read the book and feels that it and all the other things she learned at Healthy Lifestyles have made her more conscious of her eating patterns.

“I used to eat when I was bored all the time, but now I walk into the kitchen and actually think about it.”

Delaney says the book had “a lot of real-life situations, like weird guys and cliques of girls.”   

But unlike Chelsea, the heroine of the book, Delaney is a sports lover who plays softball.  She says she still connected with Chelsea’s feelings, however.  “Chelsea’s mom didn’t really agree with Chelsea in a lot of ways,” she says.  “I felt that way with my mom, so I could connect with that, too.  Sometimes moms and dads don’t really get it.”

Ms Swartz says that for books in the series, a basic story line is created and sent to childhood health experts who suggest changes during the writing process.

“We’ve gotten lots of feedback from girls and parents anecdotally,” she says.  “Parents would say, ‘Your books have helped my daughter deal with this issue.”  She suggested that the Duke researchers study the real effects of the book.

Although B*tween Productions provided copies of the books for the study, the firm was not involved with financing or any other aspects of the research.

Alexandra Russell, a fourth-year medical student who led the study, says it was exciting to learn that reading might make a difference to girls’ health. 

“There’s no risk to giving a girl a book,” she says.  “If she doesn’t lose weight as a consequence, at least it’s promoting literacy.  It’s risk free and easy to implement.”

sole source: NY Times article by Tara Parker-Pope on 10/14/08.   www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Online Literacy is a “Lesser” Literacy

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In The Chronicle of Higher Education an article by Mark Bauerlein reports on research tracking the eye movements of people reading online material. 

The research shows a staccato, non-linear pattern that bops from spot to spot.

Jakob Nielsen, called “the guru of Web page ‘usability'” by the New York Times, has gauged user habits for years.  Nielsen, previously at Sun Microsystems, is a partner in the consulting busines Nielsen Norman Group.  Donald A Norman is a cognitive scientist who came from Apple.

In a test of 232 people, Nielsen charted people’s navigations and aims, using eye-tracking tools to map how vision moves and rests.

What he found was that people’s eyes took in hundreds of pages in a “pattern that’s very different from what you learned in school.”

It looks like the capital letter F.  At the top, users read all the way across, but as they proceed down they quicken and horizontal sight contracts, with a slowdown around the middle of the page.  Near the bottom eyes move almost vertically, with the lower right corner virtually ignored.

“F for fast,” writes Nielsen.  “That’s how they read your precious content.”  (A decade ago, he titled a piece called “How Users Read on the Web.”  It began — bluntly — “They don’t.”)

In the eye-tracking test, only one in six read Web pages linearly, sentence by sentence.  The rest jumped around chasing keywords, bullet points, visuals, color and typefaces. 

In another experiment on how people read e-newsletters,  email and news feeds, Nielsen expostulated ” ‘Reading’ is not even the right word.”  They read only the first two words in headlines; they ignored introductory sections.  They wanted the ‘nut’ — nothing else.

A 2003 assertion from Nielsen warned that a PDF file strikes users as a “content blob.”  They won’t read it unless they print it.

And a “booklike” page on screen turns them off and sends them packing.

Teenagers skip through the Web even faster than adults, another Nielsen test found, but with a lower success rate for completing online tasks.  “Teens have a short attention span and want to be stimulated.  That’s also why they leave sites that are difficult to figure out.”

For teens, says Nielsen, the Web isn’t a place for reading and study and knowledge.  It’s just the opposite: a place to have fun.

Classroom Technology: One of the Great Educational Disappointments of Our Time

Schools have made enormous investments in technology, with meager returns.  Money has poured into public-school classrooms since 1996, after the Telecommunications Act of that year.  Colleges and universities have raced to “out-technologize” each other.

Enthusiasm builds, Bauerlein writes; e-bills are passed, smart classrooms multiply, students cheer — and the results keep coming back negative. 

A New York study in 2008, one of many national studies, reported, “After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none.”

One problem is the online reading habits kids have developed outside of school.  It’s not so much about the content they want, or whether they use the Web for homework or not.  It seems to be about the reading habits they employ.

“They race across the surface,” writes Bauerlein, “dicing language and ideas into bullets and graphics, seeking what they already want and shunning the rest.  They convert history, philosophy, literature, civics and fine art into information, material to retrieve and pass along.”

Yes, it’s a kind of literacy, he says.  But it breaks down in the face of a dense argument, a Modernist poem, a long political tract, and other texts that require steady focus and linear attention — in a word: SLOW READING.

source: online article by Mark Bauerlein on 9/19/08 in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  www.chronicle.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Dyslexic Brain Looks Different When It’s Reading Chinese

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The Associated Press reports that Hong Kong researcher Li-Hai Tan has found that dyslexia affects different parts of the brain depending on whether they are raised reading English or Chinese.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the findings mean that therapists may need to seek different methods of assisting dyslexic children from different cultures.

“This finding was very surprising to us.  We had not ever thought that dyslexics’ brains are different for children who read in English or Chinese,” says Tan.  “Our finding yields neurobiological clues to the cause of dyslexia.”

Reading an alphabetic language like English (which represents individual sounds with symbols) requires different skills than reading Chinese (which uses symbols to represent whole words).

Past studies have suggested that the brain may use different networks of neurons in different languages, but none had indicated a difference in the structural parts of the brain involved.

Tan’s group studied the brains of students raised reading Chinese, using fMRI imaging.  They then compared those findings with similar studies of the brains of students raised reading English.

The process of becoming a skilled reader changes the brain, says Guinevere Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University, who was not part of Tan’s team.  “Becoming a reader is a fairly dramatic process for the brain,” she notes.    

Learning to read is culturally important, but it is not “natural,” says Eden.  Brains cope with different writing systems differently.

For example, English-speaking children learn the sounds of letters and how to combine them into words.  Chinese children memorize by writing thousands of symbols which represent whole words.  Eden explains, “The implication here is that when we see a reading disability, we see it in different parts of the brain depending on the writing system that the child is born into.

And that means we “can’t just assume that any dyslexic child is going to be helped by the same kind of intervention.”

The new finding suggests that treating Chinese speakers with dyslexia may involve using working memory tasks and tests relating to sensor-motor skills.  On the other hand, treatment of dyslexic English readers who are struggling involves focusing on sound awareness and letter-sound conversions.

According to Tan, the underlying cause of brain structure abnormalities in dyslexia is currently unknown.

“Previous genetic studies suggest that malfformations of brain development are associated with mutations of several genes and that developmental dyslexia has a genetic basis,” Tan wrote via email to Randolph Schmid of the Associated Press. 

“We speculate that different genes may be involved in dyslexia in Chinese and English readers.  In this respect, our brain-mapping findings can assist in the search for candidate genes that cause dyslexia.”

In their paper the researchers note that imaging studies of the brains of dyslexic children using alphabetic languages like English have identified unusual function and structure in areas different from those of Chinese readers.

English Dyslexia Involves Disruption in: 

  • left temporoparietal areas (thought to be involved in letter-to-sound conversions in reading),
  • left middle-superior temporal cortex (thought to be involved in speech sound analysis), and the
  • left inferior temporo-occipital gyrus (which may function as a quick word-form recognition system). 

Chinese Dyslexia Involves disruption In:

  • left middle frontal gyrus region

The study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, the Hong-Kong Research Grants Council and the University of Hong Kong.

Interestingly, the article also reports that a separate paper, published two years ago by the University of Michigan, reported that Asians and North Americans see the world differently. 

When North American students of European background were shown a photograph, they paid attention to the object in the foreground of a scene. 

Students from China spent more time studying the background, taking in the whole scene, and interpreted the foreground action in terms of the whole picture.

source: Associated Press article by Randolph Schmid in the Washington Post and Teacher Magazine.  www.washingtonpost.com  and www.teachermagazine.org.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com