Literacy Education

Learn a New Word Today!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 An image of one of our Adolescent Book Group students working on a blackout poetry exercise, which requires them to select certain words and phrases from a page of text to construct a poem.

An image of one of our Adolescent Book Group students working on a blackout poetry exercise, which requires them to select certain words and phrases from a page of text to construct a poem.

October 16th is National Dictionary Day, which celebrates the English language on the day that Noah Webster was born. Webster is known for his publication An American Dictionary of the English Language, which included 70,000 words and involved learning 27 languages in order to determine the etymology of the words. This publication from Noah Webster is a predecessor to the now widely recognized Merriam-Webster dictionary that has helped millions of people understand new words.

Learning new vocabulary is an integral part of a child’s development and continues to be important into our adult lives. In an article on TalkingKids.org, it’s estimated that 3 year old children typically have between 500-1,100 words in their vocabulary. These are words  that they can both verbalize and understand. A few years later, between the ages of 5-7, children typically have the knowledge to use between 3,000 to 5,000 words in their conversations. At this point in their life, their brains are “sponges”, absorbing their surrounding environment at a rapid rate.

An article on Scholastic.com outlines three reasons why vocabulary is such a large focus for children. First and foremost, vocabulary itself makes up communication -- how we speak, read, listen, and write. Secondly, the goal of reading is to understand and grow from the material. Understanding and overall comprehension of the text improves when we know the vocabulary included in it. Lastly, when children and adolescents improve their vocabulary, their academic and social confidence and competence improves as well, allowing them to succeed in diverse environments.

Reading is one of the best ways to gain exposure to words that may not be in used often everyday conversation but have significant meaning and can be added to your “word bank” for future use. On the U.S Department of Education website, a presentation about vocabulary development outlines the correlation between time spent reading and the number of words we are exposed to each year. With less than one minute of reading each day, we are exposed to 8,000 words per year. With 4.6 minutes of reading each day, we are exposed to 282,000 words per year. And with 20 minutes of reading each day (the recommended amount for beginning readers), we are exposed to 1,800,000 words per year! Learning and comprehending new words by using context clues or looking them up in the dictionary is an important step in becoming a more advanced reader.

 An image of four dice spelling out the word “risk.” The word “hazard” originated from an Arabic word for a dice game that involved high risk!

An image of four dice spelling out the word “risk.” The word “hazard” originated from an Arabic word for a dice game that involved high risk!

National Dictionary Day also celebrates the etymology of words: where they originated from and how they came to be a part of the English language. Oxford Royale Academy lists some common words with some very interesting backgrounds. Take “hazard” for example: a word dating back to 13th-century Arabic of which “al-zahr” referred to dice used in gambling games, which had a high amount of risk involved for participants. “Al-zahr” subsequently became associated with danger and was believed to be brought to Britain when the Crusaders learned these dice games while in the Holy Land.

Looking for a fun way to celebrate this day? Try looking up etymologies of new words you learn -- or everyday ones such as sandwich or genuine! To celebrate dictionary day year round, there are multiple “word-a-day” apps and emails you can receive, including Merriam-Webster and Oxford English.

Sources:

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-dictionary-day-october-16/

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/understanding-vocabulary/

http://www.talkingkids.org/2011/07/how-many-words-should-my-child-be.html

https://www2.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/2008conferences/language.pdf

https://www.oxford-royale.co.uk/articles/14-fascinating-word-origins-english-language.html

The Psychology of Reading

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 An image of two children standing in a green field while reading books.

An image of two children standing in a green field while reading books.

Our minds go through an entire array of thoughts, feelings, and emotions while we read. There are also numerous background activities going on in the brain while we read that enhance literary experiences and can have both short and long-term effects on the reader.

What Happens While You’re Reading A Book?

To you, reading may just seem like a daily task, requiring you to repeatedly run your eyes across the page to get the information you desire. However, an article on the Open Education Database (OEDB) enumerates several other processes our minds perform in the background to allow reading to give us the knowledge and satisfaction we need.

The first on the list: visualization while reading is involuntary. The article states that visual imagery is simply an automatic reaction that doesn’t require an outside prompt. This allows the reader to simultaneously imagine whole new worlds as the words on the page slowly piece it together for them. Also mentioned in the OEDB article, our brain doesn’t make a distinction between reading about an experience and actually living it. The same neurological regions are stimulated despite if it is a real experience, or just reading about one.

What Happens After You Finish the Book?

Fiction books are meant to pull the readers in and create connection to the characters, empathizing with them in the process. After a few hundred pages of relating to the main characters, it can be tough when the book inevitably ends, severing the connection between the reader. In these cases, when you have been completely enveloped in a novel, people have said they experience a “Book Hangover”. These are generally experienced after those books you can’t put down, or after a cliffhanger conclusion. Although there is no science behind why people experience these literary “hangovers”, an article by Psychology Today summarizes three aspects of art in literature that can affect personality, long after you’ve closed the back cover:

  1. Reading fiction can give you social expertise, by allowing you step into the world of the characters and navigate through social situations with them.

  2. Literature can destabilize personality by enabling the reader to empathize through the ups and downs of the plot. This can in turn allow the reader to open up to their own inner experiences.

  3. Literature is an indirect communication method that encourages the reader to make inferences about how the characters are feeling. In the same way that people learn to understand how and why people feel the way they do, literature helps one understand in a similar way.

Words Alive knows that reading is not only an engaging activity for the mind, but it can have long lasting effects on the social and emotional side of the reader as well. We aim to provide the tools needed to underserved students and families so that they can fully reap the benefits of reading. If you would like to learn more about the programs that we offer and get involved, visit our page here.

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201501/how-reading-can-change-you-in-major-way

https://oedb.org/ilibrarian/your-brain-on-books-10-things-that-happen-to-our-minds-when-we-read/



Learning English as a Second Language

 An image of four students in one of our Read Aloud Program sessions looking through a book together.

An image of four students in one of our Read Aloud Program sessions looking through a book together.

In 2015, there were 4.8 million students, or 9.5%, of students in the United States public school system reported as English language learners. This means they are people who are going through school learning English in addition to their native language, often times without any additional support other than immersion. This statistic from the the National Center for Education Statistics has increased by over 25% since 2000. Furthermore, California has the highest percentage of English language learners, at 21% of students in public schools -- this is more than double the countrywide average.

These English Second Language (ESL) learners have their own individual sets of challenges, beyond those that monolingual students face. In an article on EverythingESL.net, Judie Haynes, an ESL teacher with more than 28 years of experience and several publications, discusses the various challenges she has seen bilingual students face in literary environments. A main challenge she referenced is the fact that literature is culture bound, meaning that there is a certain set of stories and literary genres that English speakers are expected to know from an early age. These stories are then built upon in later learning, leaving those that were born into a different culture lacking the background knowledge to understand the author’s intent. Some other challenges that can also be overlooked for ESL students is understanding our metaphors, idioms, and other forms of figurative language, that also tend to be culture bound. Beyond that, word order, syntax, and sentence structure differ in English compared to other languages.

ESL students also experience some amazing benefits to being bilingual. Not only is this a plus for future employment opportunities, but school-age children have a different mindset about learning language in general. In an article published for Lamar University about the benefits of ESL, the following cognitive tasks, among others, were cited to be easier for bilingual students: developing strong thinking skills, using logic, focusing, memory, and making decisions. The article also discussed that these students utilize a blocking technique to focus on choosing words from one language while blocking the matching word from the other language. This same blocking technique is employed to ignore distracting information, allowing them to have a stronger focus. This can also be translated into social situations, allowing bilingual students to block out what they already know and instead focus on two different dissenting perspectives to have a better understanding of an overall issue.

As a Southern California based non-profit, many of Words Alive’s participants have learned English as their second language. We work with these students to ensure that they are able to further their critical thinking and literary analysis skills while using their personal experiences to help relate to the books and deepen their understanding of the text.

If you are interested in funding or volunteering for our hands-on literacy programs, visit our website here for more details on our upcoming Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Sources:

https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=96

https://degree.lamar.edu/articles/education/the-benefits-of-esl.aspx

http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/challenges_ells_content_area_l_65322.php



What is Student-Led Education?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

What is Student-Led Education?

 Teachers from the school site 37ECB stand in front of posters about facilitation tips that the students created together. Their semester culminated in a project in which the students were in charge of facilitating discussions.

Teachers from the school site 37ECB stand in front of posters about facilitation tips that the students created together. Their semester culminated in a project in which the students were in charge of facilitating discussions.

In the 21st century, we have access to millions of pieces of information in less than a second. This shift in immediate availability of information changes not only how the workforce operates, but also how we prepare students to enter the workforce. One of the ways in which some districts and schools are addressing this is to place less emphasis on the traditional teacher-to-student lectures and instead focus more on building skill sets of students that allow them to succeed in the demands of a technologically-savvy workforce.

By changing the focus from the typical teacher-to-student led classrooms, and instead focusing on empowering students to discover their own hurdles, find their own answers, and teach others their findings, students are being taught important life-long skills. In a publication by eSchool News that focuses on how to make the shift to student-led learning, the top 10 skills that are needed in 2020 as identified by the World Economic Forum were listed, including complex problem solving, people management, negotiation, and critical thinking, among others. However, these skills cannot be taught from a teacher, they need to be observed, practiced, and given feedback. The ability to learn from peers and find resources is the key difference in student-led education versus traditional teaching formats.

What are the Benefits and Challenges of Student Led Education?

 Image of former ABG student, Daimeon, facilitating a book discussion with current ABG students at La Mesa Community School.

Image of former ABG student, Daimeon, facilitating a book discussion with current ABG students at La Mesa Community School.

There are multiple reasons why more of an emphasis is being placed on student-led education. As discussed in an article on teachaway.com that outlines the benefits of student-led learning, when students take the lead in teaching, they focus on ideas that interest them more, which paves the way for a deeper understanding and more enjoyment and fulfillment from the topic. Students also tend to relate to their classmates more, meaning they may pay more attention and even understand them better than they might a teacher. In this teachaway article, a pilot study from a university was cited in which students were given autonomy on how to structure the classes themselves in an effort to increase class attendance and exam performance. Student involvement and class attendance increased, which in turn improved the grades of the students in the pilot study. Similar teaching styles are being implemented across the world and to students of all ages to empower them to take more control over the learning process.

In the workforce, teachers are not readily available to answer questions and lead employees to the right resources. It is up to employees to find resources themselves from peers or online. Allowing this skill to develop while also enabling students to discover what interests them is becoming more important, as more schools shift to this methodology of teaching.

The Words Alive Adolescent Book Group includes book discussions, activities, and projects that are often times led by the student participants. This allows them to get comfortable speaking in front of others and encourages more involvement amongst their peers. If you are interested in funding these student-focused literacy programs, visit our website here for more details on our upcoming Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Sources:

https://www.teachaway.com/blog/benefits-student-led-learning-international-schools

http://foggs.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Making-the-shift-to-student-led-learning-white-paper.pdf

The History of Storytelling

By Jennifer Van Pelt

“Stories are our primary tools of learning and teaching, the repositories of our lore and legends. They bring order into our confusing world. Think about how many times a day you use stories to pass along data, insights, memories or common-sense advice.”

This quote by Edward Miller sourced by The Storyteller Agency encompasses how important storytelling has been and continues to be in every person’s life. Stories are what we grew up hearing, teaching us between right and wrong. We came running home from school, eager to tell our parents stories about our day. As we grow up, it’s a way to express ourselves through courses and college entrance exams, how we sell ourselves to potential employers. As an adult, the art of storytelling is a necessary skill in many careers to sell products to future customers or to let others learn from our mistakes. The stories we were told as children that stuck with us our entire lives will continue to be passed down for generations, serving the same benefit as it did for us. As we think about how prevalent stories are in our lives, let’s walk through the history of storytelling, from ancient history to present day.

Early Beginnings of Storytelling

 An image from the Chauvet Cave, depicting multiple rhinos.

An image from the Chauvet Cave, depicting multiple rhinos.

In a Princeton Publication titled “The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre” by Jack Zipes, he stated that humans have been telling stories since we had the ability to speak, and potentially by forms of sign language even before that. Though these stories tended to mark an occasion, set an example, or warn about danger, they also sought to explain the inexplicable through forms of fairy tales or tall tales. Though to date, we do not have any recordings of these original stories, we have discovered proof of visual representations of stories from our late ancestors. The Chauvet cave in France is the oldest representation of storytelling found thus far, dating to 36,000 years ago. The cave paintings are believed to tell the story of a volcanic eruption, according to an article published on News.Artnet.com. Later forms of visual storytelling can be found in Egyptian hieroglyphics from around 3,000 B.C., which mixed pictographic symbols and sounds in order to tell a story. In “The Evolution of Storytelling” on reporter.rit.edu, it is mentioned that these stories were for religious documentation and to give messages to future generations and inhabitants.

Early Written Language

Around 700 B.C., there is evidence of the first recorded stories that include the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad by Homer. The fact that these stories were recorded enabled them to spread quickly and widely across the world. Around this same period, there are other surviving stories that are still widely known today, which can be attributed to the fact that they were able to be recorded and written down, including those now known as Aesop’s Fables. Without the written language to record these stories that originated as person-to-person tales, they may not have lasted for over 2,000 years.

Modern Day Storytelling

Today, we tell stories through multiple methods of illustrations, written word, and oral storytelling. What began in the early stages as cautionary tales or part of ceremonial practices, has evolved into a method of exploring emotion, developing vocabulary, and strengthening overall cognition. Storytelling is important in all cultures to not only hear, but also to tell.

At Words Alive, we understand the importance of this and encourage our participants to relate their experiences to the books we read aloud and to join in telling their story to let their voices be heard. If you are interested in helping us build literacy skills for youth in San Diego, visit our website here to learn more details about sponsorship opportunities for our upcoming Author’s Luncheon!

Sources:

http://thestorytelleragency.com/goodreads/50-best-quotes-for-storytelling

http://assets.press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9676.pdf

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/chauvet-cave-paintings-404753

What Does It Mean to Be Ready for College & Career?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 Our Words Alive Westreich Scholars attended a comprehensive and hands-on financial literacy workshop at Junior Achievement’s Finance Park, learning skills necessary for college and career success!

Our Words Alive Westreich Scholars attended a comprehensive and hands-on financial literacy workshop at Junior Achievement’s Finance Park, learning skills necessary for college and career success!

As students near the end of high school, there is pressure to make decisions about colleges, scholarships, and careers. There is an added level of pressure and confusion surrounding the transition from high school to college when you are a first-generation college student, as is the case for many incoming college students.  Discussions amongst teachers and counselors can surround the topic around who is “college ready” or “career ready”, which can be an ambiguous term for students and parents. What does it mean to be college or career ready? What can you do to help ensure that you or your children are properly preparing for the next steps after high school?

What Does it Mean to be College Ready?

According to an article published on Educause Review, there are five tangible areas that a student should be comfortable with before proceeding into higher education. Touching on just a few of these areas, study skills is mentioned as the first area of importance. This means teaching students an effective study method that will help them succeed in college level courses. By discovering the method that works for a student’s learning type, knowledge of the subject, and difficulty of the course, a student is better set up for success.

Another area mentioned is information literacy, meaning that a student needs to be able to differentiate what information is important and then how to properly verify that the information they were given is accurate. Not only is this needed for college papers, but it’s also important for the life of any young adult in the 21st century as we are bombarded with information from all forms of social media, news outlets, television, and millions of Google results.

What Does it Mean to be Career Ready?

Achieve.org dives into what the goal of being college and career ready after high school really means. In their article, being “career ready” is ensuring that a student has the tools to not only obtain a job after graduation, but also is ready to pursue any vocational, apprenticeship, or on-the-job trainings that will enable them to succeed in their chosen career. Through the standardized testing system that the United States has established, the Common Core standards are the agreed upon “knowledge skills” that a student needs to have before pursuing college or a career after high school. However, for many vocational careers, there is no high school preparation for the demands of these jobs that are often very technical and specific. Due to the focus on an education surrounding English, Math and other “core” subjects, the emphasis remains to be competent in these areas to allow the basis for career-specific training.

Nearing the end of high school is a pivotal point for young adults, and it’s important they have the right support during this time. The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program helps students from the Juvenile Court & Community School system achieve their higher education goals. The scholarship awards money to help with living expenses as well as a mentor to help guide them through the new academic landscape while also building relationship skills and learning more about the professional world.

For more information about Words Alive, please click here.

Sources:

https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2017/2/what-does-college-ready-mean

https://www.achieve.org/what-college-and-career-ready

Is Literacy a Constitutional Right?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 A Words Alive graphic that says, "Literacy is the foundation of community and economic development. When everyone can read, whole communities thrive. We read to live full, independent lives. We read to...." The following list includes statements such as "apply for jobs that pay a living wage", "advocate for our families", and "vote or write to our elected officials."

A Words Alive graphic that says, "Literacy is the foundation of community and economic development. When everyone can read, whole communities thrive. We read to live full, independent lives. We read to...." The following list includes statements such as "apply for jobs that pay a living wage", "advocate for our families", and "vote or write to our elected officials."

A lawsuit filed in 2016 to establish literacy as a U.S. Constitutional right was struck down by a federal judge last month. The suit argued that Detroit students are excluded from the state’s education system, thus violating their rights under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. These clauses say that no state can deny any person life, liberty, or property without due process of the law and also prevents states from denying equal protection of the laws to any person.

An article from the Detroit News details the fact that though the Constitution does not explicitly guarantee the right to education, the Supreme Court has not confirmed nor denied it either. The judge also wrote that the case needed further supports to prove their case, which leaves room for this case to come back and be tried later to help support students from Detroit and across the nation.

Why Is This Case So Important?

In 2017, the US Department of Education found that 65% of fourth-grade children nationwide were not proficient in reading. When so many children have fallen behind before they are halfway through their schooling, it is difficult for them to successfully continue and complete their education. When looking at the high school completion rates, the National Center for Education Statistics states that for the 2015-2016 school year, 1 out of 6 students failed to graduate with a high school diploma within 4 years of starting 9th grade.

Without a high school diploma, finding a job that pays a living wage is increasingly difficult. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2017 data, a full-time worker without a high school diploma earns a median weekly wage of $515, while a worker with a high school diploma earns $718. When these individuals are successful in high school and have the skill set to pursue higher education, they earn a median salary over double that of someone who didn’t complete high school: $1,189 weekly wages for those with a bachelor’s degree. This demonstrates how the literacy skills that are taught in early years of school can lay the entire foundation for the future of a child’s life. Currently, about 20% of adults in the United States are not earning a salary considered to be “a living wage.” Furthermore, applying for jobs and filling out employment forms also require reading and writing skills, making it difficult for these individuals to improve their situation.

 A picture of a child in our Read Aloud Program holding the book "Are You My Mother?" while smiling.

A picture of a child in our Read Aloud Program holding the book "Are You My Mother?" while smiling.

By failing to provide the proper education for these children, the government may experience higher costs in healthcare as well. Literate adults have the knowledge and skills to seek out more preventative forms of healthcare including contraception use. According to debt.org, it is estimated that $18 billion could be saved annually if patients who have non-urgent/avoidable medical concerns were to take advantage of preventative health care instead of relying on emergency rooms for their medical needs. Emergency rooms are required by federal law to provide care for all patients, despite if they have insurance or are unable to pay, meaning that it is a popular choice for those who are disadvantaged.

There are countless more studies that show that illiteracy is connected to other undesirable life outcomes, including incarceration and reliance on public assistance programs. To illustrate, 3 out of 5 people in American prisons can’t read, and once they do leave the prison system, there aren’t any programs that allow them the opportunity to learn how to read in order to properly apply for a job. According to an article on The Observer, arming inmates with a solid education is one of the surest ways of reducing the rate at which they end up back behind bars after being released. The prison system is beginning to make moves to address these issues, but the real change needs to happen before these individuals are incarcerated by providing them with the education and tools to develop a healthy, independent lifestyle.

At Words Alive, we’ve created a “Why Literacy Matters” graphic (included above), illustrating how literacy is present in daily life and how necessary literacy is for living a full and independent life. Declaring literacy as a constitutional right would make these day to day tasks possible for everyone, allowing them to create a life for themselves that they are able to choose. Providing high-quality literacy education and opportunities at the beginning of these children’s lives is the start to building a generation that is able to accomplish their goals and achieve heights their parents were not able to. Because literacy tends to be “passed down”, meaning that it is difficult for an illiterate guardian to help a child read or do homework, it is important that the children today have the proper education and the right to break this cycle of illiteracy.

If you are interested in helping the literacy cause closer to home in San Diego, visit our volunteering page here.

Sources:

https://amp.detroitnews.com/amp/747738002

https://www.debt.org/medical/emergency-room-urgent-care-costs/

https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp

http://observer.com/2017/07/prison-illiteracy-criminal-justice-reform/

The Benefits of Discussing Books in Small Groups

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 A picture of Read Aloud volunteer, Barb Takahashi, talking with Golden Hill students in her small group session.

A picture of Read Aloud volunteer, Barb Takahashi, talking with Golden Hill students in her small group session.

Words Alive runs multiple literacy programs that focus on teaching strong literacy skills and a commitment to reading to children, teens, and families. One of our most popular programs is the Read Aloud Program, which currently serves over 4,300 Southern California students that are between Preschool and 3rd grade.

We offer this program in a “small group format” to a few of our school sites, in which our trained volunteers visit the classroom for 90 minutes each week to read to the group as a whole, then split the class into groups of 3-5 students to discuss the book and do small group activities. A study from aecf.org showed that students who are unable to read proficiently by the time they leave 3rd grade are four times more likely to not receive a high school diploma. Because of their young age and the relationship between literacy and success in education, we want to provide the most benefit we can in the 90 minutes a week that our volunteers visit the classrooms by fully engaging the students. We vet and train our volunteers to ensure they understand the discussion material and have the appropriate props, stories, and photos to help bring the books to life for the students.

These volunteers are able to bring more materials to the classroom so the group discussions are able to make the connection between the book and their everyday lives. Another benefit of the program, as noticed by our volunteers, is that all children are given the opportunity to participate. In a group of 30 or more students, children don’t always have the support to get individualized attention and encouragement to speak up like they do in smaller groups. They are also given the opportunity to use the new vocabulary and read aloud, so they can have another method of internalizing the new information.

In order to measure the effectiveness of the program, Words Alive partnered with the University of San Diego’s Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research and surveyed the teachers and volunteers involved in this small group format of the Read Aloud Program. When asking them about the effectiveness of the small groups, 9 out of 10 teachers agreed that it encouraged more individual participation, helped students understand the story, and resulted in deeper discussions. Teachers also positively rated their student's reading motivation as a 4.1 on a 5 point scale after they participated in our Read Aloud Program formatted with small groups. Reading motivation is a key literacy indicator because it shows the self-confidence and desire to continue reading, which leads to more learning and practice.

In these underserved schools particularly, there is often times no guarantee that students are provided with the necessary resources and support staff to receive the individualized attention that our Read Aloud Program provides. That is why teachers and volunteers believe in the work that we do and recommend the program to other schools.

If you would like to become a volunteer in our Read Aloud Program, or any other positions at Words Alive, visit our website here to learn more.

Your Brain on Reading

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 An image of three of our Adolescent Book Group students holding up copies of the YA novel "The Hate U Give" to cover their faces.

An image of three of our Adolescent Book Group students holding up copies of the YA novel "The Hate U Give" to cover their faces.

Reading is imperative to learning and development, but do you know what is actually happening to your brain when you read? A recent article by NPR outlines a study specifically conducted on children around age 4 in which they test activity in the brain caused by reading by presenting various story formats to the participants while they were inside an fMRI machine.

The story formats presented to the children were: audio only, illustrated pages of a storybook with an accompanying voice over, and an animated cartoon. For the audio only format, it appeared as though the children were struggling to understand and connect the dots. For the animated cartoon, it was quite the opposite: all the work was done for the children, so they were left trying to comprehend the information given to them, exercising their brain minimally. Lastly, for the illustrated pages with audio voice over, this seemed to be the most beneficial to the children. They were able to hear the words and fill in the blanks with the illustrations for the most comprehensive understanding while exercising their brain networks. This also allows those with different learning styles to benefit from both visual and aural methods. The article did make an important note though -- although the illustrated book with audio voice over was the most beneficial in the study, it still pales in comparison to sitting down with family and reading a book together.

As children get older and they start reading for themselves, they tend to sound-out words based on the individual letters. When they do this, they are forging more brain connections to help them remember the word in the future. As written in an article on theconversation.com, there is a particular area in the brain where words are “stored”, recognized more so as a symbol, so once a word is learned it is more easily recognizable and is added to their arsenal of words to use in the future.

What about for adults that are learning to read in the later stages of life? There have been studies that show the actual process of learning to read and write rewires one’s brain. A study was conducted that focused on adults around age 30 who were taught to read and write over the course of six months and included a control group who were not taught anything new. For the adults who spent six months learning to read and write, there were increases in brain activity in the cortex, the “learning” portion of the brain, as well as the thalamus and brainstem -- areas of the brain that are not generally related to learning or literacy but instead are generally used for more basic processes such as senses, movement, and attention.

These studies indicate that your brain on reading is a very involved process, one that shows the benefits of reading down to the very core of our being: it heightens activity in key areas of the brain and helps you comprehend stories and concepts more fully.

At Words Alive, we understand the benefits reading can have on all aspects of your life and at every age -- if you would like to get involved and help others experience the benefits, visit our main page here!

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/05/24/611609366/whats-going-on-in-your-childs-brain-when-you-read-them-a-story

http://theconversation.com/explainer-how-the-brain-changes-when-we-learn-to-read-76783

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2132589-learning-to-read-and-write-rewires-adult-brain-in-six-months/

Get Caught Reading!

 A picture of our Program Director, Amanda Birmingham Bonds, getting caught reading with her daughter!

A picture of our Program Director, Amanda Birmingham Bonds, getting caught reading with her daughter!

May is National Get Caught Reading Month, a campaign that aims to encourage people of all ages to enjoy literature and share their love of it with others. The campaign gets the word out by showing photos of celebrities reading various books, including Queen Latifah, Michael Bloomberg, and Dora the Explorer, among several other familiar faces. These photos are printed into poster format and dispersed in schools and libraries to help children realize that books aren’t just schoolwork, but successful people from all ages and backgrounds read with a smile on their face. To help spread the message, teachers and librarians then take photos of students “getting caught” reading and make their own posters to encourage others!

Why is this Campaign Important?

In a world focused on the internet and social media, books seem to have taken a back seat in people’s everyday life, giving way to more instant forms of gratification. For young children and teens particularly, it is important that they learn to read and enjoy the experiences reading can bring. Reading for pleasure has many benefits including mental wellness and, according to an article from the New Zealand National Library, reading is also associated with higher academic motivation levels, more positive engagement in school and family relationships, and higher social/attitudinal competencies. Aside from those benefits, reading is a key skill one must have to pursue a higher education and to succeed at many 21st century careers.

In a study done for Scholastic Publishers, researchers found that less than 50% of children ages 9-17 read for enjoyment. At a time when a child can build a habit for a lifetime, this number is alarmingly low and seems to correlate with the low amount of adults that read for pleasure as well. In the same study, Scholastic found that a child between the ages of 6 and 11 is more likely to be a frequent reader if they are currently read to at home, they were read to 5-7 days a week before nursery age, and if they were less likely to use a computer as fun. The common theme to encouraging a healthy relationship with books is reading aloud with children and being a good role model for them by consistently bringing books into the home as a family activity.

Words Alive’s Take On The Celebration

 A #shelfie from the lovely folks at the San Diego County Office of Education!

A #shelfie from the lovely folks at the San Diego County Office of Education!

Words Alive has gotten involved in celebrating people’s love of reading by bringing the idea to social media and asking others to post a #shelfie with their favorite book or in front of their book collections! We have also been inviting local council members, news anchors, and even local sports team representatives to make appearances in classrooms to read to elementary students to help encourage their love for reading. To get involved with our Share Your Love of Reading Campaign, follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @WordsAliveSD or visit our main page to learn more about other ways you can get involved!

Sources:

http://www.getcaughtreading.org/

http://everychildareader.net/

https://natlib.govt.nz/schools/reading-engagement/understanding-reading-engagement/reading-for-pleasure-a-door-to-success

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/09/decline-children-reading-pleasure-survey