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    The Screen Time Dilemma: Picture Books as Tools to Guide Reflection on Social Habits and Cultural Practices

    By Kathleen A. Paciga and Melanie D. Koss
     | Apr 13, 2021
    Girl on mobile phone

    Children’s books are commonly used in home, school, and community contexts to promote awareness of complex social issues at the earliest stages of development. Children and their caregivers encounter cultural models for, and may appropriate sociocultural values and norms about, the screen time dilemma through their experiences with texts that contain narratives about screens. The dilemma centers on the question of how much screen time—oftentimes measured in the number of minutes—is too much? Also considered is the types of interactions children have with devices.

    More and more frequently, picture books contain representations of screens, media, and technologies. How might these texts be leveraged to help children understand their relationships with screens in a more nuanced way?

    Lots of talk about screen time

    Headlines in major news media outlets have long put forward claims about the dangers of increases in screen time for children who are spending more minutes looking at screen media than ever before. This has intensified since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some of the science has suggested corollary damages to eyes and increased weight in children with excessive and sedentary use of screens, there are several additional factors associated with screen time, some more positive, that tend to be overlooked in the discussion.

    Moving past the number of minutes a child spends with a screen as the criteria for evaluating the worth of a child’s experience with screens is critical. A consideration of the “3 Cs”—the Child, the Context, and the Content—provides a more balanced lens for evaluation. Consider the whole child—their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development—and their needs as related to the current context in which screens are used. Also consider the quality of the content and whether it is used for entertainment, creativity, or social interaction, or to help the child learn about a topic that is of interest to them.

    Media mentorship

    Shortly after mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets came to market, librarians and education researchers started suggesting that caregivers and children need media mentors. Media mentors help families make wise technology choices for and with their children, and they help families use new cultural tools.

    Teachers can step into this role by leveraging read-alouds to launch discussions around how students and caregivers embrace, restrict, or balance the screens, digital media, and technologies in their lives.

    Titles and talking points

    The stories that follow offer abundant opportunity to explore these issues with pre-K–3 children and their families. Across all titles, teachers have opportunities to talk about what is added to and omitted from the child’s life while screens are turned on, turned off, or put to the side.

    The Breaking News (Sarah Lynne Ruel, Roaring Brook)

    Presenting a view of parents tracking a significant news event on the television and their phones, a little girl is confused and overwhelmed. She tries to find a way to make a difference in cheering up her family and community. This story opens the door for conversations about current events and the role of screens in presenting the news. Kids can advocate in their homes for adults to “turn it off,” and adults can help explain the importance of news in everyday life, exploring the emotions that a breaking news story might present.

    Our Great Big Backyard (Laura Bush & Jenna Bush Hager, HarperCollins)

    Jane’s parents are making her go on a family cross-country road trip, but Jane really wants to stay home with her friends. She spends her time texting her friends or watching videos on a device, ignoring her parents’ encouragement to enjoy the great outdoors. Jane eventually arrives at the conclusion that what is going on around her in reality is worth attending to. This story allows for conversation about children’s desire to connect with peers, the role of media in a child’s life, and the ways caregivers might find balance between experiences indoors and outdoors, with screens and without screens, as well as between peers and family.

    Hair Love (Matthew A. Cherry, Kokila)

    It’s a special day, and Zuri needs to create the perfect hairstyle, but her dad is sleeping. While researching possibilities, her tablet falls, waking her dad. He attempts several styles, but none are quite right. Zuri encourages him to watch a video tutorial to learn how it’s done. This book beautifully celebrates the positives and potentials of screens as a tool for learning and inquiry. It provides opportunities to discuss a child’s goals for using a screen and fosters understandings of how screens can be used alone or in conjunction with others—as is captured in the joint use between Zuri and her father as well as in the celebratory selfie Zuri snaps at the end of the story.

    When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree (Jamie L.B. Deenihan, Sterling)

    What do you do when you really want a technological toy for your birthday but instead you get a lemon tree? The main character had to learn to make the best of it, ultimately growing to appreciate the joy that taking care of something can bring. Sharing the tree and lemons with her family and neighborhood inspired the main character to explore gardening and her friends to put down their technology and explore nature. A house portrayed without any technology and feeling like the only one without allows for discussion on consumerism and wanting, yet not always receiving, what peers have, as well as ways to interact with others around items without screens.

    For more on where ILA stands on using technology as a tool to teach children, read our position statement and literacy leadership brief Digital Resources in Early Childhood Literacy Development.

     

    ILA member Katie A. Paciga is an associate professor at Columbia College, Chicago in Illinois.

    ILA member Melanie D. Koss is an associate professor at Northern Illinois University.

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    ILA 2021 Board Election Opens

    ILA Staff
     | Mar 29, 2021

    BoardElection_w300The International Literacy Association (ILA) has commenced its annual election for its Board of Directors. Eligible ILA members are encouraged to vote for three at-large candidates and one vice president candidate. Read about the candidates before casting your ballot.

    The ILA 2021 Board Election will be conducted entirely online. Individual ILA members with an active membership and a valid email address will receive email reminders with a link to the online ballot. Eligible ILA members who do not have valid email addresses will receive instructions by mail for how they can vote online.

    If you haven’t received your email ballot, please confirm your membership is in good standing and that the email address connected to your membership is accurate by signing into your membership account or by phoning ILA’s Constituent Services Team at 800.336.7323 (U.S. and Canada) or 302.731.1600 (all other countries). 

    For assistance signing into your ILA membership account, please contact Keith Wier, account manager for Intelliscan, kweir@intelliscaninc.com.

    The newly elected Board members will begin their terms on July 1, 2021.


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    “He’ll Be Our Inspiration, Still”: Remembering Robert B. Ruddell, Former IRA Board Member and Influential Author

    By Colleen Patrice Clark
     | Mar 25, 2021

    Robert B. RuddellRobert B. Ruddell, professor emeritus at University of California, Berkeley, and a noted scholar of early reading comprehension, critical thinking, and motivation, died on March 14. He was 83.

    Ruddell was a prolific writer and editor perhaps most known for How to Teach Reading to Elementary and Middle School Students: Practical Ideas From Highly Effective Teachers (Pearson) as well as Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading, the first six editions of which were published by the International Reading Association (IRA, now ILA). It is now in its seventh edition as Theoretical Models and Processes of Literacy, published by Routledge.

    A past Board member of IRA, Ruddell also served as president of the Reading Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 1989. He was a recipient of the William S. Gray Citation of Merit, ILA’s highest honor reserved for lifetime achievement and leadership contributions to the field, as well as the Oscar S. Causey Research Award from the Literacy Research Association.

    “The news of the loss of Bob Ruddell, who has brought so much to us in the past, brings great sadness,” said Norman Unrau, professor emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles, and a coeditor with Ruddell on the latest editions of Theoretical Models. “During the years Bob and I worked together, I learned immeasurably from his approaches to problems in literacy research and to methods of presenting them to those in our field. And I know that there are countless educators who have benefited from his spirit and will be saddened by his loss.”

    Among those educators is MaryEllen Vogt, a past president of IRA, who was advised by Ruddell when she earned her doctorate in language and literacy from University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). She recalls the day she received her acceptance letter from him as life changing.

    “To be Bob’s advisee was the best of all worlds as a graduate student,” she said. “He seemed to know everyone in the reading world and pushed me to know them all, too….His jovial approach to life, his friendship, and his unwavering belief that all kids can learn to read have molded me into the reading teacher I am today.”

    Ruddell exceeded in academics early on, finishing high school at just 14 and becoming the youngest student ever to enroll at Morris Harvey College, now Charleston University, at 15. He went on to earn an undergraduate and master’s from West Virginia University, and his PhD from Indiana University.

    He was 26 when he joined UC Berkeley, his academic home for the next 35 years.

    During his time at UC Berkeley, Ruddell served as acting dean of education at Tolman Hall, directed the Advanced Reading-Language Leadership Program, and served as chair of the Language, Literacy, and Culture faculty group. He worked with 86 doctoral students, advising and directing their research and dissertations.

    “He has left a great legacy to the study of reading, not only through his scholarship, but also through his many books for teachers, his leadership in the International Reading Association, and—perhaps most of all—his intellectually rigorous and interpersonally generous mentoring of the next generation of PhD students at Berkeley,” said P. David Pearson, emeritus faculty member at UC Berkeley. “When the topic of language and literacy in the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley comes up, Robert Ruddell is the first name that comes to my mind.”

    His passing marks a great loss for the literacy world, but as Donna Alvermann, distinguished research professor of language and literacy education at University of Georgia and a coeditor on Theoretical Models said, his legacy will live on. “I know how hard he worked to support teachers and graduate students from across the country. My coeditors and I will miss working with Bob….He’ll be our inspiration, still.”

    Colleen Patrice Clark is the managing editor of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    Five Steps to Address Anti-Blackness: Black Immigrant Literacies

    By Patriann Smith
     | Mar 17, 2021
    FiveStepsToAddressAntiBlackness_680

    I recently wrote the piece "Beyond Anti-Blackness in Bilingual Education" for the American Educational Research Association's Bilingual Education Research Special Interest Group. In this piece, I invited everyone to think about how anti-Blackness has inadvertently persisted in bilingual education throughout the United States via the lens of Black immigrant literacies. In this blog post, I want to continue that conversation and present five steps educators can take to address anti-Blackness.

    We know Blackness has been excluded from bilingual programs and that limited emphasis is placed on the bilingualism of Black “English learners” at large. We know also that Black students who use multiple Englishes and speak other “dialects” in the U.S. have not been a major part of bilingual programming because of how we continue to define bilingualism. Black immigrants, who are a part of the Black student population and who use their own languages and dialects, further complicate this situation because they tend to be viewed as a model minority, creating an invisible and lingering disconnect between Black American and Black immigrant youth. In turn, many teachers and educators often find themselves struggling to address anti-Blackness in language for all Black students. But things do not have to be this way.

    Consider that in 2019, for the first time, the U.S. reflected a majority non-White population under 16. Note also, that by 2030, the U.S. will face a demographic turning point:

    • Racial and ethnic groups will continue to function as the primary drivers of overall growth because of the unanticipated decline in the country’s White population.
    • Immigration will continue to overtake natural births as the main source of population growth for the country.

    By 2060, the nation’s foreign-born population is projected to rise from 44 million people in 2016 to 69 million. Amid these projections, Black residents in the U.S.—both native and foreign born—are expected to continue to function as one of the major non-White groups accounting for the growth of the nation.

    A perpetuating cycle

    The past five years with increasingly anti-Black languaging geared toward Black residents in the U.S. were a powerful reminder that history repeats itself. Last year, particularly with the death of George Floyd, illustrated what can happen when racial dissent festers, erupts, and destroys—again, because of anti-Black languaging.

    And in January 2021, we saw how the pervasive subtlety of linguistic destruction that has, for decades, wrecked invisible havoc on the hearts and minds of Black youth, came to a climax as anti-Black language and anti-Black literacies functioned as fuel, fanning the flames of violence against Black residents in the U.S.

    If we do not take urgent steps to address anti-Blackness in the languages and literacies of Black students to bridge gaps and build solidarity among Black youth, invisible divisions within the Black population are likely to be further exacerbated by the anti-Black discourses that have managed to create them in the first place. Failing to leverage language and literacy to address anti-Blackness can threaten Black humanity for generations and places everyone at risk.

    I envision, through Black immigrant literacies, a United States where bilingual education is reenvisioned to center the languages, including dialects, of Black children (i.e., African American Vernacular English, Jamaican Creole English, West African Pidgin English). How can we do this together? The Black immigrant literacies framework suggests multiple ways. I present the first in this multipart blog series.

    Through Black immigrant literacies, teachers can create opportunities for youth who identify as Black American and Black immigrant to share what I call “local–global” connections.

    Five steps for creating local–global connections

    Step 1: Have Black immigrant youth share their experiences with language as well as being Black in their home countries and the U.S. through their written and verbal Englishes as well as multimodal literacies. In these creations, encourage youth to reflect on the variations and how they and others perceive their ethnic, racial, and linguistic backgrounds.

    Step 2: Now have Black U.S.-born youth share their experiences with language and being Black in the United States through their written and verbal Englishes as well as multimodal literacies. In these creations, encourage youth to reflect on the variations and how they and others perceive their ethnic, racial, and linguistic backgrounds.

    Step 3: Use these literate creations as a basis for individual reflection about Blackness on the part of each student by having Black American youth exchange their created products with Black immigrant youth and vice versa. What similarities and differences do they see between their creation and that of their peers? What elements do they not understand? Allow all students to write these down.

    Step 4: Engage Black immigrant and Black American youth in discussions about their reflections. How did Blackness seem present or absent in creations when the peers were born in the U.S.? How did Blackness seem present or absent in creations when U.S.-born peers had immigrant parents or when they were foreign born? What new insights can Black immigrant peers learn about Black American students’ experiences and how to respond to negative responses about their languages and literacies?

    Step 5: Have youth revise their creations to reflect insights from their Black immigrant or U.S.-born peers. Have all students share the creations with other Black peers in their classrooms, schools, and via social media as well as with their parents, friends, families, and caregivers. Create opportunities across classrooms and schools for broad discussion about these insights, inviting non-Black peers to be part of the learning and conversation.

    Learn more about how to address anti-Blackness through literacy

    Already there are numerous Black scholars spearheading efforts to address anti-Blackness in language and literacy across organizations such as the International Literacy Association, Literacy Research Association, National Council of Teachers of English, TESOL, and American Association for Applied Linguistics. These scholars invite us to use new tools, theories, and pedagogies to center Blackness in the language and literacy practices that we use as teachers and educators in schools.

    You, too, can address anti-Blackness in language and literacy with and for Black children and youth. Start now by attending my upcoming presentations, "Challenging Anti-Blackness in Language Education" on March 25, 2021, at TESOL 2021 and "A (Trans)Raciolinguistic Approach for Literacy Classrooms" on March 26, 2021, at the Shifting Linguistic Landscapes conference.

    Dr. Patriann Smith is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on cross-cultural and cross-linguistic considerations for Black immigrant literacy and language instruction and assessment. She has proposed a transraciolinguistic approach for clarifying Black immigrant literacies and Englishes. Her research has appeared in journals such as the American Educational Research Journal, ILA’s Reading Research Quarterly, and Teachers College Record. Her current book project is Black Immigrant Literacies: Translanguaging for Success (forthcoming 2022 from Cambridge University Press).

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    Selecting Mentor Texts With Academic, Linguistic, Cultural, and Social-Emotional Responsiveness

    By Melanie Meehan and Kelsey Sorum
     | Mar 12, 2021
    SelectingMentorText_JabariJumps_680
     Gaia Cornwell’s Jabari Jumps (Candlewick) illustrates optimism and strategies for releasing fear.

    While writing personal narratives in fall 2020, Kelsey’s class studied a mentor text: Do Like Kyla (Scholastic), written by Angela Johnson and illustrated by James Ransome. Johnson’s text includes repetition, dialogue, and sentence structures that students could approximate in their own writing. Additionally, the storyline was one that many children could connect with during the pandemic—siblings spending time together and going on a walk to the store.

    SelectingMentorText_Student Art
     One student drew a portrait of Ransome in preparation for the virtual visit. 

    Young writers were particularly drawn to the illustrations. During Zoom meetings, they watched a series of instructional art videos with Ransome on KitLit TV. They turned shapes into people, tried a technique with watercolors called “glazing,” and illustrated their own stories. Students prepared artwork, books, and questions to share with the illustrator during a virtual school visit.

    Many authors and illustrators—like Ransome—have provided access to their work and engaged with children remotely, allowing deeper connections to form between creator and mentor, child and text. Through recorded read-alouds, students can listen to authors read their own texts. Through virtual visits to schools and recorded interviews, authors and illustrators give students an opportunity to ask questions about the texts they are studying, writerly processes, and craft moves. With growing access to texts and their creators across multiple platforms, mentor texts can be selected with responsiveness to students and their communities.

    What is responsive writing instruction?

    Responsive writing instruction activates an asset-based mind-set when making modifications to instruction. It requires that teachers see students and answer these questions:

    • How do we meet students where they are?
    • …with what they have?
    • …in ways that celebrate who they are?

    Our book, The Responsive Writing Teacher: A Hands-on Guide to Child-Centered, Equitable Instruction, frames responsive writing instruction within four domains of responsiveness:
    SelectingMentorText_FourResponsivenesses_Full

    • Academic responsiveness: ensuring new skills and content match students’ abilities and goals 
    • Linguistic responsiveness: ensuring language(s) used in instruction and in the classroom environment are accessible and inclusive of home language(s)
    • Cultural responsiveness: ensuring a diverse and authentic representation of authorship, characters, and content within the texts and resources
    • Social-emotional responsiveness: ensuring a safe, supportive, and engaging environment for taking risks and overcoming challenges in the writing process

    Responsive instruction within these domains centers students—establishing an evolving and deepening understanding of them as writers and community members and people. 

    Knowing and honoring the skills, languages, cultures, perspectives, and interests that students contribute to a classroom community opens up possibilities for planning and teaching with abundance. Planning and teaching that is inclusive. Planning and teaching that is engaging. Planning and teaching that is equitable. 

    Responsive mentor text selection across the domains

    SelectingMentorText_HowToReadABookByKwameAlexander_FullUsing mentor texts is an important component of writing instruction. Mentor texts invite writers into the process, immersing them in words, inspiring them to try, and demonstrating the power that is possible through words and shared ideas. 

    To evaluate a mentor text for academic responsiveness, consider the following questions: 

    • Does the text model many of the genre-specific elements and craft moves that students will learn to include in their writing?
    • Will students be able to approximate such text features?    

    To evaluate a mentor text for linguistic responsiveness, consider the following questions:

    • Is there accessible vocabulary and vocabulary supports (e.g., illustrations, labels, captions, glossary) that develop background knowledge?
    • Are there grammatical structures that are at a level at which students can note, emulate, and approximate?
    • Does the text feature languages that students speak or immerse students in new languages/dialects?
    SelectingMentorText_BirdsonPage_Full
    On this page from Birdsong (Greystone Kids) by Julie Flett, readers can study craft moves that include, but are not limited to, the plot, mood, word choice, conventions, repetition, and sentence structures.

    To evaluate a mentor text for cultural responsiveness, we recommend using this chart, inspired by a presentation from Sonja Cherry-Paul:

    Representation

    Are characters doing everyday things?

    Are they portrayed as victims?

    Is there a savior?

    Context

    What are characters in the book doing?

    Are they doing it in present time? Not just in history?

    Authorship

    Who is the author?

    What makes the author uniquely positioned to tell the story?

    Content

    Does the text have an authentic voice?

    Will students want to read this book?

    Chart adapted from the NCTE presentation “Building Better Readers Through Book Clubs” by Sonja Cherry-Paul

    To evaluate a mentor text for social-emotional responsiveness, this chart provides guiding questions for different genres:
    SelectingMentorText_SocialEmotionalResponsivenessChat_Full

    SelectingMentorText_ReneeWatsonQuote_Full 
      Source for Quote

    Because there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum; students’ skills, languages, identities, and interests are diverse; and constraints continue to drive creativity, responsiveness—which has always been essential—is critical now more than ever. For us, the four domains have become a way of thinking, analyzing, and acting, as we continue to ask: How do we meet students where they are, with what they have, in a way that celebrates who they are?

    Melanie Meehan and Kelsey Sorum will be leading a free webinar, “Responding to Writers, Responding to the World: Instruction That Centers, Celebrates, and Empowers Students,” on March 17, 2021, 5:00–6:00 p.m. ET. Register now to reserve your spot.

    Melanie and Kelsey's book, The Responsive Writing Teacher: A Hands-on Guide to Child-Centered, Equitable Instruction, is available now from Corwin Literacy. Use the discount code ILA25 for a 25% discount plus free shipping on purchases from corwin.com.

    Melanie Meehan has been the elementary writing and social studies coordinator in Simsbury, Connecticut since 2012. She is a coauthor of Two Writing Teachers, a blog dedicated to the teaching of writing, as well as a regular contributor to Choice Literacy. Her book, Every Child Can Write, was published by Corwin Press in October 2019. Follow her on Twitter at @MelanieMeehan1.

    Kelsey Sorum spends each day coconstructing joyful, integrated literacy experiences alongside nearly 30 kindergartners at a progressive public school in the Brooklyn neighborhood of New York City where she lives. Kelsey’s work is featured She presents at local and national literacy conferences as an advocate for early childhood education. The Responsive Writing Teacher: A Hands-on Guide to Child-Centered, Equitable Instruction, is her first published book. Connect with her on Twitter at @KelseySorum.

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