Honoring National Reading Month

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


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

Generation Adaptation

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 10:12 AM

In our 2012 YearBook, we share our “Five Vibes” for the year. This past year, we included one that we called, “Survival Savvy.” Like all of our “Vibes,” it’s not a trend or a fad, but rather our feelings about the state of youth right now. We see some eviYouthBeat Yearbookdence of the Survivalist trend on reality television, particularly of the basic cable variety. And while the Hunger Games’ Katniss serves as the poster girl for this idea, we think of it as more than just a fight to the death. For this cohort of youth, “making the most of what you have” is a necessary stance in a world that requires adaptation to new terms.

While we sometimes see youth as changing the game, it’s also important to acknowledge that this generation has had a few surprises thrown their way. Teens have encountered changing expectations about college and how they should calculate its costs. Growing up in a down economy means that many can’t count on summer jobs – but that’s just a starting point.  Many have adapted to uncertainty surrounding their own financial future, becoming a generation more likely to value thrift-shop finds than extravagant expenditures. Some have bemoaned this generation’s seeming loss of interest in the environmental crisis (it’s fallen on our YouthBeat list of top concerns), but perhaps this generation has come to expect that they need to change to sustain. Instead of reacting to crisis, this generation recognizes that they need to simply readjust.

In their book, Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy suggest that “most of us were born into a culture which aspired to solve all problems. How do we support people and create systems that know how to recover, persist, and even thrive in the face of change?” They argue that the skill that this generation of problem-solvers requires most is the ability to know when a problem cannot be solved. In contrast with the “me, me, me” generation that Joel Stein describes in the May 13th issue of Time, this generation might be listening and carefully calculating in ways that we’ve overlooked. Look to them to solve problems by seeking the viewpoint of all sides, and to make decisions of all sorts with a careful understanding of how their desires look in the light of day. They might be more realists than dreamers, and more measured than spontaneous. And for brands, content providers and organizations, it means not underestimating their ability and their intent to adapt to an ever-changing world.

Tags: youth research, culture, youth media, market research

YouthBeat Expands Expertise Adding Preschool Syndicated Study

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 @ 03:18 PM

YouthBeat is excited to announce the launch of YouthBeat Jr.! YouthBeat Jr. extends the scope of YouthBeat, our syndicated study and consulting service that examines the lives of youth ages 6-18 and their parents to the 2-5 set. YouthBeat Jr. is grounded in a robust survey designed specificaPreschool Researchlly to unlock the authentic attitudes and real experiences of preschooler parents.

We ask about their parenting style and decision-making approaches. We find out how their children spend their time, what they love and what mom and dad want for them. We cover topics ranging from breakfast foods to book reading to birthday parties. And we ensure that our interpretation includes insight by bringing our applied and academic expertise to everything we do.

See the press release here.

To order your subscription to YouthBeat Jr. or to learn more, please contact Amy Henry by email at youthbeat@crresearch.com or call 312.828.9200.

Tags: youth research, preschool, youthbeat jr., news, market research