Literacy Education

Why We Should Own Books

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 An image of a young student from Golden Hill pointing at a large pile of books at a book giveaway we hosted in 2017.

An image of a young student from Golden Hill pointing at a large pile of books at a book giveaway we hosted in 2017.

Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, The Going to Bed Book -- these are some of the most iconic children’s books today. You may have read them to young ones before bedtime or perhaps you had them read to you when you were young yourself. However, many children don’t have books read to them before bedtime because they don’t have home libraries or books at home. Having books in the home is important not only for bedtime stories and the routine it creates for a family, but also for the educational value books can provide to developing minds.

An analysis of nearly 100,000 school children across the United States found that access to printed materials is the critical variable affecting reading acquisition. Having books easily accessible, such as in the home, helps them enjoy reading and read more frequently. For a skill as important as reading, something that can change one’s social and economic standing for years to come, frequent exposure is imperative. It’s also been noted that even allowing a child to pick out a book that they would like to read teaches them autonomy and empowerment.

Previously, having college-educated parents was thought to be the top predictor of a child’s success in school. A study at the University of Reno found that both having a 500 book library or having university-educated parents propel a child an average of 3.2 years in their education. Though 500 books is a significant investment, having as few as 20 books in one’s home library can have an impact on a child’s future education, with the impact increasing as the number of books increase.

An article from The Atlantic discusses a community with high poverty rates that was found to have only one age-appropriate book per 33 children -- all of which were coloring books. By comparison, children in a middle-class community in the same city had access to 13 books per child. By slowly building home libraries in these communities, we can help develop an interest in reading in children.

Words Alive helps our participants in all programs build their home libraries. Our Family Literacy Program students take home a new book every week, culminating in 7 new books for their home libraries by the end of the program. Our Adolescent Book Group participants keep the books that we read together throughout the school year. We also have our Winter Book Giveaway coming up where we will be giving away 3,000 new books to students in our Read Aloud program.

If you would like to donate or become a fundraiser to help us continue building home libraries for students, check out our Champions for Youth campaign that is running through January 27, 2019!

Sources:

http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/face/pdf/research-compendium/access-to-books.pdf

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/07/where-books-are-nonexistent/491282/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100520213116.htm

https://booksaremagic.org/2012/03/14/book-ownership-matters/



Join Us & Become a Champion for Reading!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

November 27th was #GivingTuesday, a day to start the holiday season by donating to nonprofits as an act of philanthropy. Gaining more support each year, there was an estimated $274 million given to nonprofits in the United States on Giving Tuesday in 2017. Words Alive is joining in the season by launching our exciting new peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, Champions for Youth.

 An image of a young child in our Read Aloud Program holding up a copy of “Are You My Mother?” and smiling at the camera. The image has text that says “Join us and become a champion for reading.”

An image of a young child in our Read Aloud Program holding up a copy of “Are You My Mother?” and smiling at the camera. The image has text that says “Join us and become a champion for reading.”

What is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

Peer-to-Peer fundraising is a social form of campaigning that focuses on building relationships with our supporter’s closest network -- their friends, family, or coworkers. As a non-profit, much of our time is spent writing extensive grant requests to donors and organizations. However, nothing compares to when our existing supporters reach out to their own social circle and seek connections that we would not otherwise be able to make. You are much more likely to support a cause that is important to a close family member or friend than from someone you have never met -- which is why we are so excited to get your support for our new campaign!

What is the Champions For Youth Campaign?

Champions for Youth is the key charitable initiative of the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open. Administering the program is the Century Club of San Diego, who selected 10 organizations that support youth and their families to participate. Words Alive will receive 100% of each donation with the potential to earn bonus money from the Farmers Cares Bonus Pool (which contains $260,000), based on the amount of donors and money we receive in relation to the other participating charities. For example, when 150 people donate at least $10 to our campaign, we’ll earn a bonus of at least $10,000 on top of what we’ve already raised. Incentives such as these continue throughout the campaign!

How do I Get Involved in the Campaign?

 An image of Read Aloud Program students exploring a book together with Words Alive volunteer Sharon Gruby! A $100 donation to our Champions for Youth campaign provides 75 new books for children to take home and build their libraries.

An image of Read Aloud Program students exploring a book together with Words Alive volunteer Sharon Gruby! A $100 donation to our Champions for Youth campaign provides 75 new books for children to take home and build their libraries.

There are two ways to get involved: you can donate directly on our campaign page or become a fundraiser for Words Alive. By becoming a fundraiser, you are directly participating in the peer-to-peer aspect of the campaign by helping Words Alive reach new potential supporters that we wouldn’t normally be able to reach. To help realize the impact that certain donations have, the following show how important a small or large donation can be to children in need:

$10 Helps support one child in the Read Aloud Program for a month

$25 Provides a Kindergarten Readiness Tool Kit for a child

$50 Helps send a scholarship recipient to a workshop

$100 Provides a set of 5 brand new, diverse, and relevant books for a teen

 A graphic featuring a quote from one of our Champions for Youth donors:  “I am very pleased with the work that Words Alive has championed, and I am impressed with all the young people they have been able to help. It's a great work - helping children read more can change their lives forever, and helping students get through college when they otherwise would not be able to, is an immesurable gift! Well done.” - Alesa Gibbs

A graphic featuring a quote from one of our Champions for Youth donors: “I am very pleased with the work that Words Alive has championed, and I am impressed with all the young people they have been able to help. It's a great work - helping children read more can change their lives forever, and helping students get through college when they otherwise would not be able to, is an immesurable gift! Well done.” - Alesa Gibbs

Our goal is to raise $60,000 dollars throughout the campaign, which will allow us to serve 300 students and families with high-quality programs. At Words Alive, we know that when children and their families are fully prepared to confidently approach and embrace their education, and when young adults are equipped with the knowledge and support to pursue higher education, they have the power to embody the true meaning of success. This all starts with reading and giving our communities the tools to thrive. Some of our supporters have gotten a head start on fundraising and have received the following comments from donors within their social circles:

“I am very pleased with the work that Words Alive has championed, and I am impressed with all the young people they have been able to help. It's a great work - helping children read more can change their lives forever…”

“Thank you for spending your time opening a new and, hopefully, kinder world for these kids!”

“Reading has always been important to me. I started reading very young and fell in love with the adventures in Narnia and the Shire. I hope that my small contribution can help a child build the skills they need to enjoy the beauty of literature.”

If you are interested in learning more about our participation in Champions for Youth or would like to see our training dates that support you in carrying out peer-to-peer fundraising, visit our page here.

Sources:

https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/2017-givingtuesday-raises-estimated-274-million-for-nonprofits

https://www.causevox.com/blog/peer-to-peer-fundraising-primer/

November is Family Literacy Month!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 A graphic that features a quote from one of our Family Literacy Program Participants: “ Before, my kids did not treat their books with respect. They used to flip through all the pages and mess them up but the books we get from the program are like magic. They take care of them and hug them and cuddle with them before bed. ”

A graphic that features a quote from one of our Family Literacy Program Participants: “Before, my kids did not treat their books with respect. They used to flip through all the pages and mess them up but the books we get from the program are like magic. They take care of them and hug them and cuddle with them before bed.

What is Family Literacy Month?

November is Family Literacy Month, a time to bring awareness to the importance of reading as a family. Family literacy can be more than reading together, it can also include engaging in other activities that focus on reading, writing, spelling, or storytelling. In a publication by the National Literacy Trust, they cited parental involvement as the most important determinant of language and emergent literacy. Bringing these activities into the home in a one-on-one environment can mean much higher interest  in reading as well as higher learning rates.

What Does Family Literacy Look Like?
The most important aspect is that family literacy should be a family activity. This means children should be interacting with parents, grandparents, or siblings when taking part in these activities. It’s also important to make it fun -- children don’t necessarily need to know that they’re learning while you partake in these activities! Some examples to “gamify” your day to day are:

  • Ask them to name every item around them that starts with the same first letter as their name

  • Ask them to read street signs, or infer what the signs mean from the drawings on them

  • Switch off telling stories about your days

  • Read the book version of their favorite movie

  • Take family outings to the library where reading is the main activity

Words Alive’s Family Literacy Program

Words Alive offers a Family Literacy Program for parents and preschool-aged children to attend 7 workshops together. The program includes a weekly information session for the adults, then together the children and parents partake in a group story time as well as guided activities. Our Family Literacy Program focuses on three goals:

  1. Parents develop an internal commitment to reading -- develop sustainable family reading habits

  2. Parents and children become lifelong learners -- expand knowledge of how to best develop and support their child’s development

  3. Parents become advocates for their children and their futures -- embrace role as their child’s first and foremost teacher

Working towards these goals gives parents the right tools to have deeper engagement with their children when reading together. When asking for feedback from the Family Literacy Program participants, one parent wrote:

Before, my kids did not treat their books with respect. They used to flip through all the pages and mess them up but the books we get from the program are like magic. They take care of them and hug them and cuddle with them before bed.

These positive changes and relationship to books is what Words Alive hopes to achieve. Our program has demonstrated an 87% increase in the percentage of families who look at books together at home by the end of the 7 week program. By providing this program to families, we are giving them the tools that they need to understand the power of reading and what it can mean for their lives. If you would like to learn more, you can visit our programs page here.

Sources:
https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/11/national-family-literacy-day/



What is the Difference Between Equality & Equity?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 An image that visualizes the difference between equality and equity. In both images three figures stand in front of a fence, attempting to see over it, and they all stand at different levels of the field, some higher and some lower than the others. The “equality” image shows each figure standing on an equal sized box, yet one figure still cannot see over the fence. The “equity” image shows the figure lowest on the field with three boxes, the second lowest with two, and so on, so that everyone can see over the fence. ( Source )

An image that visualizes the difference between equality and equity. In both images three figures stand in front of a fence, attempting to see over it, and they all stand at different levels of the field, some higher and some lower than the others. The “equality” image shows each figure standing on an equal sized box, yet one figure still cannot see over the fence. The “equity” image shows the figure lowest on the field with three boxes, the second lowest with two, and so on, so that everyone can see over the fence. (Source)

The terms “equity” and “equality” are frequently thought to be interchangeable. However, in the world of education (and beyond) there is a large distinction between the two that can be differentiated in the same way as “fairness” and “sameness.” King University describes the difference as, “Equality denotes how people are treated, such as providing students an equal amount of respect or an equal amount of instruction. But equity, on the other hand, is about giving each students the tools [they] specifically need to thrive.” Equality assumes that every child needs the same amount of attention and tools in school in order to succeed. Equity accounts for the fact that children have different home lives, backgrounds, learning styles, or learning disabilities, among other factors.

The Glossary of Education Reform outlines several ways in which inequity can enter the public school system and classrooms:

  • Societal Inequity: Minority students (based on race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, or ability) may experience conscious or unconscious discrimination that can affect their learning, achievement, or aspirations.

  • Socioeconomic Inequity: Students from lower-income households can under-perform in the classroom and tend to enroll in higher education at lower rates than their more affluent peers.

  • Familial Inequity: Students may come from a tumultuous household with abuse, poverty, or lack of support. Parents who are unable to read themselves or were unable obtain a diploma may place a different emphasis on academics than parents who obtained a college degree.

  • Linguistic Inequity: Students who are learning the English language may be disadvantaged in classrooms that provide English-only exams and can be held to lower academic expectations.

These background variables place students at different advantages in school, starting from the time they enter Kindergarten. The support an English-language learner needs in a classroom differs from the attention a student who comes from an low-literate household needs. By focusing on these needs from the beginning, we can prevent achievement gaps that will only widen over time.

There are various ways to help bring fairness to the classroom and provide the tools that each student needs individually to succeed. An article written by Shane Safir, the founding co-principal of June Jordan School for Equity, explains some of these methods. Her first example details an English-language learner who struggled with paragraphs and punctuation and how she found the time for one-on-one teaching during a class quiz. By placing more emphasis on the student’s learning gap instead of a quiz that the entire class was taking, the teacher saw the importance in bringing the ELL student up to speed with the rest of the class. Some of her other methods include knowing the students lives outside of school, what they enjoy doing, and more about their family, so the teacher can build trust and begin to understand what additional support, if any, the child may need. Safir also believes in creating a safe space where failure is celebrated and students can share their struggles with their peers in order to learn from each other.

There have been several federal initiatives related to providing equity to students through how funding is allocated to schools as well as supporting organizations who can help bridge the equity gap directly. Promise Neighborhoods, Investing in Innovation, and IDEA are all recent federal initiatives that focus on supporting nonprofits and institutions of higher education that provide these students the tools they need to thrive.

Words Alive works to achieve equity in education, by providing additional support to students who may be working through extraordinary circumstances in the public school system. If you would like to learn more or get involved with our Words Alive programs, click here for more information.

Sources:

https://online.king.edu/news/equality-vs-equity/

https://www.edglossary.org/equity/

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/equity-vs-equality-shane-safir

Why Diversity in Books is So Important

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 Image of young adult author Nicola Yoon and her husband holding up a sign that says, “We need diverse books because of everything in this circle.” There is a circle cut out of the sign and their daughter is standing so her face is in the circle. Photo credit:  Nicola Yoon

Image of young adult author Nicola Yoon and her husband holding up a sign that says, “We need diverse books because of everything in this circle.” There is a circle cut out of the sign and their daughter is standing so her face is in the circle. Photo credit: Nicola Yoon

In a recent blog post, we previewed a few books included in our curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year. Among the books included are short stories and novels that feature characters and are written by people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, authors who deal with mental health issues, and have other diverse experiences.

ADL is a nonprofit whose mission is to secure justice and fair treatment to all, including those of varying religions, races, genders, and identities. ADL posted an article outlining anti-biased education and how diversity in books was related. The article explains the difference between “mirror books” and “window books” when referring to diversity in children’s literature. A “mirror book” contains a reflection of oneself: your culture, gender, race, religion, etc. and enables the reader to potentially see themselves in a different light. On the other hand, a “window book” gives the reader a glance into another life that features different people, events, and places that they may not be familiar with. Exposing students to different environments through these “window books” is a unique opportunity to learn empathy and perspective, while allowing children to reflect on their experiences through “mirror” books helps them relate in new ways and learn more about themselves in the process.

 A graphic titled “Proportion of children’s books by people of color published in the US (2017).” The graphic shows the following statistics: 3,150 white, 274 Asian Pacific/Pacific Americans, 122 African/African Americans, 116 Latinos, 38 American Indians/First Nations.  Source

A graphic titled “Proportion of children’s books by people of color published in the US (2017).” The graphic shows the following statistics: 3,150 white, 274 Asian Pacific/Pacific Americans, 122 African/African Americans, 116 Latinos, 38 American Indians/First Nations. Source

What Portion of Books are Considered Diverse Today?

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center does a yearly study on how many books are published from non-white authors. Though there has been an increase in recent years for books published from multicultural authors, there are still just over 10% of books published in the last 24 years that were written by and about people of color. This is compared to the 2017 census data that reported 40% of Americans as people of color.

Examining the books in the Young Adult LGBTQ category, where the characters or plot line focuses on LGBTQ issues, the percentage has doubled in the last decade. Malindo Lo, an author who writes about such issues, conducted her own study in 2017. Malindo counted books published each year by mainstream authors, reaching nearly 80 books in 2018, up from 55 in 2015. Comparing this to the 4.5% reported American LGBT population in 2017, there is a large variance between the population and the representation within publications and what students are exposed to. This under-representation is what a lot of advocacy groups and movements aim to address today.

Is Diversity in Books an Important Topic Today?

Yes! We Need Diverse Books aims to “produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” An 11 year old African-American girl, Marley Dias, launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in contemporary books.

Words Alive understands the importance of diversity as well and works hard to bring “window books” and “mirror books” into the classrooms to teach students self-reflection and empathy. Most of our participants are non-white students, a group that is severely underrepresented in American publications. By exposing students to different cultures and reliving how main characters have endured experiences that the reader may have gone through personally, we are able to bring more representation, tolerance, and understanding into the classroom.

Sources:

https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/table-talk/why-we-need-diverse-books

http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045217

https://www.malindalo.com/blog/2017/10/12/lgbtq-ya-by-the-numbers-2015-16

https://news.gallup.com/poll/234863/estimate-lgbt-population-rises.aspx

https://diversebooks.org/about-wndb/





Dyslexia Awareness Month!

 An image of blocks of letters all mixed up. People with dyslexia experience difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

An image of blocks of letters all mixed up. People with dyslexia experience difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

What is Dyslexia?

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, a time to bring more attention to what dyslexia is and how best to work with those who are dyslexic. The International Dyslexia Association characterizes the learning disability as difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities. Consequences from dyslexia can include problems with reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Unrelated to a person’s cognitive abilities, dyslexia has many positive consequences, including helping individuals become highly resilient and adaptable, articulate and expressive of thoughts and feelings, empathetic, and having the ability to think outside of the box and see the bigger picture.

Who Is Impacted By Dyslexia and What Is Being Done About It?

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity states that dyslexia effects 20% of the population and represents 80-90% of those with a learning disability. Due to the prevalence of dyslexia, thirty-nine of the fifty states have introduced dyslexia related legislation, which are outlined on . The National Center on Improving Literacy website in detail. California, as one of these states, has a bill that requires guidelines to be prepared to assist teachers and parents in identifying dyslexia as well as provide improved educational services to these students. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also provides the accommodation for students with dyslexia to have additional time to take exams, believed to be one of the most critical accommodations that allows students to succeed alongside students without the learning disability.

How Best to Teach Those With Dyslexia?

Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) is a method that is frequently used to teach individuals with dyslexia. Also termed Scientific Word Investigation, WordWorksKingston.com describes one of the guiding principles behind the method to be: the conventions by which English spelling represents meaning are so well-ordered and reliable that spelling can be investigated and understood through scientific inquiry. The Nueva school, a California-based school, summarizes the method into a few simple steps: The method starts with students brainstorming a way to define the word, using knowledge they already have. From there, they look at the structure of the word before diving into the etymology of the word as well as what the prefix, suffix, or base word is. Then, the students explore if there are any related words, before visually representing them in what has been termed a “Word Sum”. Lastly, the students debrief about what they learned about that particular word family. By going through this inquiry process, students learn more about the background of the word and are given the tools to learn new words on their own.

If you believe your child or student has dyslexia, but aren’t sure where to start, many of the websites listed below have additional resources. Another resource that is frequently cited by national and international dyslexia organizations is Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.

Events such as Dyslexia Awareness Month helps to bring attention to the 20% of our population who have dyslexia. Through this additional time and recognition, students are given the opportunity to learn to read and succeed alongside their peers.

Sources:

https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/

http://dyslexia.yale.edu/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia/

https://improvingliteracy.org/state-of-dyslexia/california

http://wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Structured_Word_Inquiry.html

https://www.nuevaschool.org/student-experience/lower-school/structured-word-inquiry

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