Honoring National Reading Month

Posted by Manda Pawelczyk on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 @ 04:06 PM

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Here at YouthBeat®, we value the importance of reading, and like those famous words from Dr. Seuss in Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, we believe reading is the gateway to a better future. But as March comes and goes, reading really takes center stage as we help celebrate National Reading Month.  Even as we step into 2016, too many children across this country are struggling with literacy. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 65% of fourth graders scored below proficiency on the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress reading test, indicating that they are not reading at grade level. Among eighth graders, only 36% are reading at or above grade level.

The question is, what can be done to help our youth build the literacy skills they need to live a successful and prosperous life?  There are a variety of organizations, both local and national, that are trying to address this question. 

  • Readaloud.org has started a 10 year campaign encouraging parents to spend 15 minutes every day reading to their children.
  • A study conducted by John Hutton of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, reveals that preschoolers whose parents read to them regularly show more activity in key areas of their brains.
  • Another study by Dominic Massaro, from the University of California, shows that reading to children helps expand their vocabulary and grammatical understanding more than simply talking to them. He found that picture books are two to three times more likely to include a word outside the 5,000 most commonly used English words than a parent to child conversation. According to Massaro, “Reading picture books to babies and toddlers is important because the earlier children acquire language, the more likely they are to master it.  You are stretching them in vocabulary and grammar at an early age.  You are preparing them to be expert language users, and indirectly you are going to facilitate their learning to read.”

Unfortunately, not all children and families, especially those from low-income households, have access to books and reading material. That is why the White House has announced a new program called Open eBooks.  It is an app that gives children living in low-income households access to eBooks valued at more than $250 million. Students, educators and administrators from more than 66,000 Title 1 schools will have access to the app and its content.  The program is also paired with an initiative to get every child a library card, giving them maximum access to books – both on paper and digitally.

But there are also many smaller and local organizations that are doing their part to make a difference. 

  • Over the past school year, I have had the chance to volunteer with Y Reads!, an after school reading program that is in partnership with the YMCA and the Department of Education. The program is grant-funded by the DOE and focuses on helping Title 1 schools that have high rates of students reading below grade level.
  • Each year, the lowest core readers in first to third grade are invited to participate in the program. The program is led by one site-coordinator who accesses students’ reading levels and builds an appropriate lesson plan for each student. The rest of the program relies solely on volunteers to mentor the children through their lessons.  Each session focuses on the student practicing their phonics, sight words, spelling, reading and comprehension. 

As a volunteer, it has been an incredible experience getting to see some of today’s youth grow and expand and have a better chance at a brighter future. I cheer for them as they figure out that difficult word, and smile when they light up because they got an answer right. Because really when it comes down to it, they want a chance at chasing their dreams and want to know that they are worthy of an education.  Now the question is, how can your organization lend a hand, not just during National Reading month but all year long?

Tags: kids, reading, kids tweens teens, market research, books, literacy

5 Reasons Why Teens Love the Youngest Jenner Girls

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 @ 04:09 PM

Kendall and Kylie Jenner

On the surface, Kendall and Kylie Jenner are not relatable in any sense of the word. They come from one of the most globally recognizable families in the world. They call an Olympic athlete their dad and a “Momager” their mom.  Kendall Jenner’s IMDB bio describes her as an “American socialite, television personality and model.” Kylie Jenner hangs with Will Smith’s son, movie star Jaden Smith. Their famous sisters (and half brothers) have had self-titled TV shows, and almost everyone in their family of drinking age is paid in the thousands of dollars for merely appearing at a party. Not to mention that their lives have been filmed and broadcast since the age of 10 (Kylie) and 12 (Kendall).

But despite the odds, they might have just become role models of a certain sort to today’s youth. What makes these girls the celebs of the moment goes beyond good marketing and a public platform that is arguably unrivaled (although those help). We think that they were far from destined to become today’s trendiest teens (with millions following them on Twitter). And while there are many reasons why adults might critique their particular brand of fame, we’re endlessly curious about the reasons why these girls have connected with today’s teens.

  1. They defy the script. Despite being part of the most scripted unscripted family of all time, the youngest Jenner sisters consistently seem to speak in a different tone, in a different way than their older counterparts. Kylie dyes her hair blue. Kendall prefers to portray herself as awkward and anti-social versus gregarious and polished. They publicly criticize their celebrity family (all the while, reassuring listeners that they’re all about familial love). They sometimes shun the camera (all the while, continuing to post selfies of all sorts).
     
  2. They eschew entitlement. Like their older sisters, these girls seem to engage in deals across multiple domains. But the image they’ve cultivated is one that suggests that they are workers. Beyond constantly praising the work ethic of their parents, they have served as “interns,” designers for a line at Pac Sun (who, in the “fashion” of the day, claim to be hands on, and they’ve written a fictional novel). Even Kendall’s recent success as a model feels like it’s fueled more by the kind of flow she gets from pursuing a lifelong passion (even though, in early episodes of the series, she buckled under the pressure her older sister put on her to take modeling classes).
     
  3. They have issues. But they have the right kind of issues – teen angst, sibling rivalry, a little bit of narcissism - but they’re not known for promiscuity, overindulgence, or insensitivity. Remember, their young fans are much more morally self-righteous than we might expect. Tweens, in particular,are quick to feel uncomfortable when their idols make ill-advised decisions.
     
  4. They care about creativity. They represent a kind of creative class of youth that feels both age-appropriate and consistent with the ethos of their cohort of youth. It’s unlikely that teens will read the countless scathing reviews of their newest endeavor, a novel entitled Rebels: City of Indra, and instead will see them as “authors” of a form that feels different than the memoirs of their famous sister and mother. They treat fashion with reverence that helps to elevate their occupation as “designers” and models to a respectable height. And their boho style, while fueled by designer labels, feels more earthy and relatable to today’s teen girls who see themselves as more creative than  luxury-laden. 
     
  5. They’re connected. It’s not just about tweeting or posting a never-ending stream of images on Instagram. They’re connected to each other – they come as a pair like so many popular kid and teen characters (remember Mary Kate and Ashley?). They are surrounded by people and have a built in social club in the form of their siblings. This reassurance that these stylish, attractive girls are also part of a larger team is critical to keeping them within reach. 

Tags: girls, parents, novel, Youth, Teens, fashion, TV, tweens, books