By Andrea Hunt Tempted to write off empathy as a “soft” skill? Think again. Today, understanding and being sensitive to others’ feelings and perspectives is seen as a new “superpower” across fields from education and business to science and technology. And it’s credited with everything from increased personal satisfaction and creativity to better leadership and negotiation skills. As Barack Obama put it, “Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.” But empathy is on . . .
By Andrea Hunt Picture this. It’s Christmas eve, and your family has gathered to give each other books, then cozy up for an evening of reading and hot chocolate. (Maybe throw in a roaring fire and marshmallows for good measure). Sound almost too good to be true? Meet the Icelandic Yule tradition of Jolabokaflod, which means “Christmas book flood”—a festive celebration of reading and simple pleasures. The tradition has been going strong for more than 75 years in Iceland. Over . . .
By Chrysta Naron “At a time when we need to reinvent a world of hope, literacy is more important than ever.” -Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General Literacy offers a beacon of hope. Yet, according to UNESCO, some 773 million children and adults around the world lack basic literacy skills. That’s a huge number. Luckily for all of us, though, there are many incredible people and organizations striving to improve literacy around the world. And the best part is . . .
Without a coordinated network of support, fugitives fleeing slavery faced a harrowing journey. By Maya Payne Smart Hundreds of Underground Railroad historical markers span the United States, conjuring images of covert escape routes, shrewd conductors, and clandestine connections. Such high-stakes adventure tales grip the American imagination, inspiring books and movies about antebellum liberty pursued and denied, borders permeated and fortified, identities shed and remade. But Texas is . . .
Teach a person to read and you open a door—not only to an unparalleled world of wonder and entertainment—but also to independence, freedom, and success. Yet those doors are remaining closed for too many: In 2019, the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that two-thirds of the nearly 294,000 fourth- and eighth-grade students who took the test couldn’t locate information that’s stated in a text, infer the main ideas of an article, explain the theme of a story, or evaluate a . . .
By Courtney Runn Teach a person to read and you open a door—not only to an unparalleled world of wonder and entertainment—but also to independence, freedom, and success. Yet those doors are remaining closed for too many Texans: Just 25 percent of Texas public school fourth graders scored at a “proficient” level or above for reading in a 2017 study, a full ten points lower than the already-unacceptable national rate of 35 percent. Going by the statistics, the deck is already . . .
By Chrysta Naron Let’s face it, letter names and letter sounds don’t always match up in a way that makes sense. Judging by their names, C should sound like /s/ and G should sound like /j/. Meanwhile, when X starts a word, it makes the same /z/ sound as the letter Z. This can be very confusing for early readers. They need constant reinforcement to internalize these nuances. Rather than sitting down and drilling letters every day—endlessly drawing lines from the letter C to a clip-art . . .
By Chrysta Naron Word families, sets of rhyming words that share the same ending spelling and pronunciation, are great tools for helping kids recognize patterns and build awareness of the sound structure of words. For example, the “at” word family includes words like “cat,” “hat,” “sat,” and so on. Word families are wonderful because they teach two skills at once. First, children learn to connect certain letter combinations with particular ending sound chunks or rimes. This can help them . . .
By Chrysta Naron Sandpaper letters are a popular Montessori material and a wonderful tool for helping young children master their ABCs. These letters cut from sandpaper and mounted on solid backgrounds allow children to experience the alphabet in multiple ways—before they have the fine motor skills to write the letters themselves. They can see how the letters are formed, and feel them as they trace their shapes. This sensory element can help them retain the names, shapes, and sounds of . . .
As lovers of literature, tossing books into the recycling bin can feel almost sacrilegious (even that dog-eared paperback that’s lost half its pages). And the nature-lovers in us rebel at the idea of crafting and decorating with brand-new paper when stacks of books and magazines are tossed every day. That’s why we celebrate the idea of giving unsalvageable and obsolete books a second life by upcycling them into book-page crafts. Creating decorative and useful objects out of old book . . .