Category: Reading

Early Reading Proficiency Report

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has just released the results of their update to their study of third grade reading scores.  The new data shows that 80% of low-income fourth graders are not proficient in reading as compared to 49% in higher income students.  Due to this, there is an expected shortfall in the United States by 2020 of 1.5 million workers with college degrees with a surplus of 6 million people without a high school diploma who will be unemployed.

These disparities in income are also echoed in racial groups.  Black students are at 83% below proficient reading levels.  Hispanic students are at 81%.  That is compared to 55% for white students and 49% for Asian. 

The study goes on to show state by state what the percentage point different is in reading proficiency rate. 

The good news is that reading proficiency is improving the US.  The bad news is that the large gaps remain in specific demographics.  The report ends by urging a focus on making sure that children are healthy and ready to learn, exposed to as much language as possible in their early years, and encouraging parents and school to work together to make sure their children are learning.

Smart PJs – A Dumb Idea

This makes me want to scream, but I work in a library so I’m holding it in and only screaming here.  See if you have the same reaction:

For me it’s the idea of devices reading bedtime stories to children.  That’s what we have loving adults in our lives for.  Bedtime is a moment of connection, a way to show love and caring and compassion.  Sharing books that display our appreciation for nature, diversity, and life.

Soapbox dismounted.

Early Warning Confirmed

annie e casey

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has a new report that updates research about 3rd grade reading levels.  It follows up the 2010 Early Warning: Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters report.  In this new research, it has been found that the issue may be even more urgent than previously realized.

You can read the entire document here in pdf format.  Here are some of the major findings:

  • Early-grade reading proficiency in the US continues to be unacceptably low for low-income students and students of color
  • The gap between struggling and fluent readers does not improve over time
  • There are strong correlations between failure to read proficiently and failure to graduate from high school
  • The issue is no longer just about breaking generational poverty cycles, but also about preventing new ones from forming due to downward mobility from the middle class

Most-Challenged Books of 2012


It’s Banned Books Week and the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association has announced the most-challenged books of 2012.  The Office documented 464 challenges in 2012.  The list below reflects the ten most-challenged titles and also has the reasons for the challenge.

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence


As reported by the BBC, a new study by the Institute of Education at London University looked at the reading habits of 6000 children.  The results show that reading for pleasure is more important to a child’s development than the education level of their parents. 

The conclusion was that because of their wider vocabulary due to reading, children did better across the curriculum.  Children who read more than once a week for pleasure had a 14.4% advantage in vocabulary, a 9.9% advantage in mathematics, and an 8.6% advantage in spelling. 

Perhaps most surprising is the correlation with mathematics where one might expect the vocabulary impact to be less.  Here is the explanation from the study’s author:

"It absolutely makes sense that you would expect reading for pleasure to improve children’s vocabularies.

"But I think that that also does improve children’s ability to take on new information and new concepts across the curriculum.

"A child who has a narrow vocabulary may constantly be coming across things they don’t understand."

ALSC Summer Reading Lists

ALSC has some great Summer Reading book lists that are available free of charge, you just need to print them.  Nicely, the books selected should be in all libraries.  If you don’t have the books, it’s probably a good idea to get them anyway! 

The lists are broken into three age groups:  K-2nd grade, 3rd-5th grade and 6th-8th grade. 

Print some out for a quick and easy way to welcome summer into the library!

Harry Potter Beats Gruffalo


A poll to help celebrate International Children’s Book Day sees some intriguing results.  Both children and parents were able to vote:

Children selected Harry Potter as their favorite character with 38% of the kid vote.  The Gruffalo got 34% and the Cat in the Hat received 28%.

But Rowling did not get selected as best ever children’s author, Roald Dahl won that category for both children and parents.  In the children’s vote Rowling came in second with Beatrix Potter taking third.  Something I am completely charmed by.  The parental vote had Enid Blyton second with Rowling third. 

Perhaps my favorite result of the survey are that more than half of the parents polled said that their children are reading the same books as they did as children.  Now that’s a great family tradition!


TES Magazine in the UK surveyed teachers to find out what their favorite books are.  500 primary and secondary teachers participated in the survey and the result is a list of 100 top books.  It’s a very intriguing mix of classics and popular fiction.

As with any list, there are ones I love and others that I sigh at in despair (Twilight is number 77).  Enjoy!  And let me know which ones you delight in or sigh at!


1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

3. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

6. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

7. The Lord of the Rings (series) J.R.R. Tolkien

8. The Book Thief Markus Zusak

9. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien

10. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

11. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini

12. The Hunger Games (series) Suzanne Collins

13. The Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger

14. The Chronicles of Narnia (series) C.S. Lewis

15. Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

16. Birdsong Sebastian Faulks

17. His Dark Materials (series) Philip Pullman

18. The Gruffalo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

19. The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger

20. Life of Pi Yann Martel

21. Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

22. Rebecca Daphne du Maurier

23. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Mark Haddon

24. Lord of the Flies William Golding

25. Matilda Roald Dahl

26. Catch-22 Joseph Heller

27. Millennium (series) Stieg Larsson

28. Animal Farm George Orwell

29. The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

30. Persuasion Jane Austen

31. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

32. Kensuke’s Kingdom Michael Morpurgo

33. Goodnight Mister Tom Michelle Magorian

34. The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck

35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl

36. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne

37. Little Women Louisa May Alcott

38. One Day David Nicholls

39. We Need to Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver

40. The Twits Roald Dahl

41. Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel

42. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini

43. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame

44. Frankenstein Mary Shelley

45. Great Expectations Charles Dickens

46. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis de Bernieres

47. George’s Marvellous Medicine Roald Dahl

48. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

49. Room Emma Donoghue

50. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

51. Atonement Ian McEwan

52. Emma Jane Austen

53. Middlemarch George Eliot

54. The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

55. The Color Purple Alice Walker

56. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle

57. Brave New World Aldous Huxley

58. Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen

59. The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

60. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

61. Charlotte’s Web E.B. White

62. Dracula Bram Stoker

63. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

64. A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving

65. The Secret History Donna Tartt

66. The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupery

67. Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky

68. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

69. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy

70. Skellig David Almond

71. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

72. Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell

73. Game of Thrones (series) George R.R. Martin

74. David Copperfield Charles Dickens

75. Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

76. Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak

77. Twilight (series) Stephenie Meyer

78. Beloved Toni Morrison

79. The Help Kathryn Stockett

80. Sherlock Holmes (series) Arthur Conan Doyle

81. Half of a Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

82. Moneyball Michael Lewis

83. My Family and Other Animals Gerald Durrell

84. Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden

85. On the Road Jack Kerouac

86. Cloud Atlas David Mitchell

87. Wild Swans Jung Chang

88. Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery

89. Les Miserables Victor Hugo

90. Room on the Broom Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

91. Private Peaceful Michael Morpurgo

92. Noughts and Crosses Malorie Blackman

93. Cider with Rosie Laurie Lee

94. Danny the Champion of the World Roald Dahl

95. Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell

96. The Magic Faraway Tree Enid Blyton

97. The Witches Roald Dahl

98. The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy

99. Holes Louis Sachar

100. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde

I must say that it does my heart good to see Holes right next to The Picture of Dorian Gray.  I think that summarizes the list quite nicely.

Read for My School

Top British authors will be read as part of the new Read for My School program in Britain.  Aimed at 9-11 year olds, the program will run the first quarter of 2013.  The project is designed to encourage reading for pleasure with 100,000 free books being donated by the Pearson Foundation.  Additionally, almost half of the 90 titles on the reading list will be available to read online at no cost.

The 90 books are broken into themes that include Historical Hits, It’s a Mystery, Keep It Real, Laugh Out Loud, Out of the This World, Stars of the Screen, Thrill Seekers, and Wild Thing.  The books are a mix of new and old, popular and classics.  Visit the official site for more information.

Ten Most Challenged Books of 2011

ALA has released their list of the top 10 most challenged books in 2011.  There were 326 challenges reported to ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom.  I’m intrigued about the changes in the list this year: no Harry Potter, no Tango Makes Three. 

Here, just in time for the 30th Anniversary of Banned Books Week are the top ten:


  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence



4.  Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

5.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint


7.  Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism


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