This coming week is Adult Education and Family Literacy week. I choose to focus on Family Literacy and will post to that effect Monday.



Thanks to Carla for the lovely meme above.
A colorful kids’ version of a remarkable project

Although this lovely book was published in 2010, I didn’t come across it until it was donated to my Little Free Library…

My 69th BD present, a gift that keeps on giving

…by a teacher-friend who was “getting rid of excess books.” Biblioburro is the true story of Luis Soriano, who ives in a remote village in Columbia. I had seen the PBS documentary and heard of several individuals who were emulating his project, but this is the version relevant to and about the kids served by Luis and his burros. It is a colorful, inspiring read.


How can we get middle graders to read? How can we get them to like reading? How can we get them downright excited about books and reading? Those questions are exactly what language arts teachers are asking themselves, experts on reading, and other teachers. “What works in your classroom”? is often heard in middle school among conversations in the faculty lounge.

More and more schools, literacy organizations like Imprint in Houston have begun to arrange author-events, book signings, book fairs with decorations, life-sized cardboard characters to take selfies with, and “take-offs” on adult book signings (but a lot more fun). In Brazoria County ComicCon gets the whole family involved in a family night at the local junior high. It is sponsored by the Brazoria County Library System, held in a local school, and a good time is guaranteed for all. Tie Ins with current family-approved movies (like Wonder) are promoted and encouraged by teachers and book clubs alike. Because films are made with “something for everyone,” films made from popular YA books are most often successful with middle schoolers, sometimes viewed after reading the book at school.

Often authors will greet fans and sign and sell their books, which builds an author-reader relationship only equalled by the child- book (or more often book series) relationship–a win-win for all involved. Students and their families begin to “think of reading as a cherished part of their lives, not just homework.” (Samuels, Bobbie “Houston’s Tweens Should Read For Fun” The Houston Chronicle) In the same article, Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith (authors) are quoted as saying, “Reading for pleasure is better for developing minds than assigned books.”

It has been my experience over the past fifty years that students identify with characters in age appropriate books, often reading about characters slightly above the age they currently are, perhaps to get a sneak peak at what lies ahead. Books that deal with family and social issues (putting up with embarrassing parents, problems with older and younger siblings, troubles with demanding or even unreasonable teachers, bullying, students with “differences” etc.) often have a way of equipping a student to deal with the life issues he/she faces.

According to the NEA report ,”To Read or Not to Read, quoted in Samuels’ article in the Chronicle,” Independent readers are more likely to be good citizens–to volunteer, vote, exercise, attend sporting events and support local arts.” These traits are what we should be promoting in our schools, and it can be done through promoting literacy.


Tweens are a whole new group of readers according to those trying to market books and authors in their direction. We are talking here about middle graders: not still children, not yet teenagers, but in-between the two categories. If we had to attach a “years” label on them, it might be eight to twelve year olds. These years also coincide with first phones and a great deal of video distractions.

Here in Texas, we rank “38th nationally in reading test scores for 4th graders and in HISD (Houston Independent School District) only 23 percent of 4th graders tested at or above grade level proficiency in 2015.” ( Bobbie Samuels, retired educator in The Houston Chronicle, “Houston Tweens Should Read for Fun,”) Embarrassing to say the least! I agree with the article, for as she states, “The importance of the love of reading–separate and apart from school–cannot be overestimated.” I found that statement true in the hundreds of 6th-8th graders I taught from 1968-1984 in the Alvin Independent School District. A student who reads separate and apart from what is assigned in junior high is a good student in most subjects in high school. A non-reader or even a struggling one is a poor student in almost everything.  Good readers develop…”growth in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and increased general information.” (Berniece E. Cullinan of New York University as quoted in Samuels)

Samuels points out that The National Endowment for the Arts, in its article, “To Read or Not to Read, ” states there is a correlation between the amount of time students spend reading for pleasure and scores on national and standardized tests in both reading comprehension and writing. Samuels continues to describe The British Cohort Study, which followed the lives of 17,000 individuals over decades, which “has found that reading for pleasure outside of school has a significant impact on young people’s educational attainment and social mobility…” The study also found that “recreational reading has more than triple the impact on student achievement than their parents’ level of education, previously thought to be a leading factor in student success.”

What all this tells us is that if we wait until junior high or middle school to “hook” students on reading for pleasure, it may be too late.  Further still, I have experienced many students who loved reading, and learning in general, only to be “turned off” in later elementary grades or middle school/junior high, somewhat because of the following: teaching to the test,  no time for free reading,  teachers’ insistence that a student read at grade level whether he/she is “up to it” or not,  listing unrelated vocabulary words to be memorized when they will only be “learned for the test, never used after that–all horror stories heard from students in high school, junior college, and the university levels.

In my fifty years of teaching from grades four through graduate students at university, I have almost “seen and heard it all.” Reading for pleasure and developing a love of reading are necessary at every level. From what I have seen, our K-4 teachers often instill these qualities, only to have them “stomped on” later. This is an outrage, one I probably have been responsible for committing myself. I challenge myself and all teachers everywhere to love books, words, reading with their whole hearts and share these feelings with their students.

Flashback Friday

Several bloggers are participating in a meme that allows them to feature a previously posted article on the last Friday of each month.  For January’s flashback post, I am going to make you work a bit.

Go to the search box and type in “Thursday Thoughts”.  When it/they come up, read the one giving thoughts on literacy.  You will recognize it by the little blue figure, reading in a chair.

I hope you will take the alarming statistics presented seriously.


This information came across my desk recently from the RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) organization, a cause which I believe in and support financially. The flyer deals with “America’s Literary Crisis,” and the statistics that appear are alarming.  Did you know that 65% of 4th graders in the US read below grade level? 34% of children entering school lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read?  Only 37% of students who graduate from high school can read at or above proficiency levels? 43% of American adults are functionally illiterate? 93 million adults in the US read at or below the basic level needed to contribute successfully to society?

As the Foundation points out, “If we don’t act now, children from disadvantaged communities will always be at risk and future generations will continue to be impacted.” This is why each of us needs to support children’s literacy. At RIF, people are committed to a literate America and give all children access to books.  RIF provides “new books for poor kids” as a sixth grader phrased it. It is a proven intervention program that supports at-risk children who may not have school libraries.

Think seriously about contributing to this worthy, effective cause.  Send a check to:

RIF  (Reading Is Fundamental)

1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, 11th Floor

Washington, D.C. 20036

For more information, see WWW.RIF.ORG