3 Professional Reading Titles To Boost Literacy

Tips for strengthening literacy through games, maker spaces, and reading and writing exercises.

redstarCarroll, Joyce, Kelly Barger, Karla James, & Kristy Hill. Guided by Meaning in Primary Literacy: Libraries, Reading, Writing, and Learning. 297p. chart. illus. index. photos. Libraries Unlimited. Feb. 2017. Tr $39.94. ISBN 9781440843983.

A practical and important book on supporting early literacy in schools and libraries with lessons in writing and reading. The title’s most crucial arguments are that literacy (and, for that matter, anything) should resonate with those we teach and that “brain research has supported meaningful instruction for decades and continues to support it by proving that the brain neither attends nor retains what it perceives as meaningless”—a powerful statement backed up by research. The authors are successful in demonstrating how libraries can extend learning in deep and powerful ways. They highlight examples of student writing anecdotes from the real world and make connections between theory and practical application. While the text is grounded in research, Carroll, Barger, James, and Hill don’t neglect to present lessons and stories that reflect the true joy of reading and how magical early literacy activities can be for young children. VERDICT A must-read for early childhood educators.–Renee McGrath, Nassau Library System, Uniondale, NY

Haiken, Michele, ed. Gamify Literacy: Boost Comprehension, Collaboration and Learning. 156p. ISTE. Apr. 2017. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781564843869.

In 17 brief chapters, each authored by an educator or teacher librarian, this volume presents ways to increase student participation and engagement through games and play. Each chapter first states to which of the seven International Society for Technology in Education standards the content maps, and contributors introduce their personal gaming history and describe how they decided to bring gaming concepts into their classrooms. The text is divided into three sections: “Sandbox,” which tackles flexible open-ended play; “Homebrews & Game Sharks,” which examines strategies and tools that can be applied to different subjects; and “Cheats,” which offers ways to motivate students. The book covers online digital gamification techniques, such as using Minecraft to simulate the trenches of World War I, and live-action role-playing games, board games, trivia, and class challenges. There are tips for implementing leaderboards and badges, and chapter appendixes and figures are included to showcase screenshots of the gaming world or the education portal discussed and highlight class worksheets or contracts. Although some chapters are much more detailed than others, this text will inform and spark ideas. VERDICT Purchase where educators and teacher librarians are interested in gamifying classrooms and curricula.–Meaghan Darling, Long Hill Township Public Library, Gillette, NJ

Pawloski, Lynn & Cindy Wall. Maker Literacy: A New Approach to Literacy Programming for Libraries. 116p. index. glossary. photos. Libraries Unlimited. Nov. 2016. pap. $40. ISBN 9781440843808.

Though the maker movement is often seen as “the creation of concrete things,” it “also applies to ideas, feelings, and thoughts,” assert Wall and Powlski, who here offer a range of activities aimed at preschoolers and elementary and middle school students. While the concept of learning by doing isn’t new, what sets this title apart is the introduction of technology such as iPads or other tablets. The authors suggest pairing Sandra Boynton’s popular book and app Barnyard Dance with a craft activity that involves making a musical instrument. A Titanic-themed unit incorporates Lauren Tarshis’s I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912, YouTube videos, and an experiment that lets students create an iceberg. Another example pulls together Mac Barnett’s Extra Yarn, the app Paint for Cats, and an activity (using wet felt to make wool ball toys for cats). Several projects rely on a 3-D printer. The chapters tackle a variety of programming ideas, such as storytimes, family programs, science and design, computer coding, and booktalking. Each chapter includes a description of one or two apps or videos and a list of craft items required for the theme. The app descriptions also appear in the appendix, but there is no indication of price, and reviews of the apps are featured but are not always clear. A helpful glossary defines technological terms. VERDICT Recommended for large libraries with technology budgets.–Jackie Gropman, formerly at Chantilly Regional Library, VA

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