Schools may soon face an unintended consequence of more flexible technology and more energy-efficient buildings: sleepier students. That's because evidence is mounting that use of artificial light from energy-efficient lamps and computer and mobile-electronics screens later and later in the day can lead to significant sleep problems for adults and, particularly, children. While lights and electronic devices that mimic daylight can improve students' attention and alertness if used during normal daytime hours, Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, has found exposure in the late afternoon and evening can disrupt sleep cycles as much as six to eight hours — the same amount of "jet lag" caused by a flight from New York City to Honolulu.
I recently gave a friend two Tolstoy books for her birthday, "Anna Karenina" and "War and Peace." My friend was turning 1. "Anna Karenina: A Fashion Primer" is part of the recent BabyLit series, now offering 14 titles. Although based on classic literature, BabyLit doesn't stray much from traditional children's books, making them safe gift choices. Alison Oliver's illustrations are marvelous, but in no way alternative. And Jennifer Adams' text teaches expected material: counting, colors, sounds.
About 20 children cranked their arms, chugged like locomotives and chanted "Choo, choo, choo, choo, woooo!" when Austyn Ballage scored a perfect 100 on a reading-assessment quiz at the Denver Broncos Boys and Girls Club in Montbello recently. The program is an initiative of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, one of many organizations that have received funding through Denver Post Charities Season to Share. In the past school year, more than 1,250 children who used the program at 10 of the organization's 16 branches read a total of 35,576 books, achieving an average comprehension score of 91 percent. Kids who attend the program focus on two things: reading and homework.
Proponents of early education talk frequently about laying a good foundation for literacy skills. But what about math? Too often, teachers underestimate just how much math young children can learn, says Douglas H. Clements, a professor of learning and instruction at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. Mathematics is naturally embedded into the lives of young children, through things like counting and measuring games, and natural exploration of height, weight, and distance. Teachers can support such "informal" math through games, puzzles, and songs the same way literacy is supported, Clements told attendees at a recent workshop on infusing math and science into early-childhood education, sponsored by the National Science Foundation in Washington.
Even teachers need a little acknowledgment for learning new skills, according to Laura Fleming, a school library media specialist at New Milford High School in Bergen County, NJ. Through her site, Worlds of Learning, Fleming is offering teachers at her school and beyond the opportunity to earn digital badges — indicators of accomplishment that can be posted online — for mastering digital literacy in a number of areas, from QR codes to video editing. Fleming says that her site, launched in October, provides a fun way for educators to motivate themselves and be rewarded for their efforts. "This is supposed to be informal learning," says Fleming. "I really want to keep it that way. I want them to feel this is a safe place and at the same time be challenged."
Between one-fourth and 44 percent of Ohio third-graders would not pass the state test required to move on to fourth grade if it were administered today, according to information provided Thursday by the Ohio Department of Education. ODE plans to release the fall Ohio Achievement Assessment results on Friday, which are a first glimpse of how many students might be retained in third grade as part of a tougher "third-grade reading guarantee." The assessment administered in the fall tested students as if they had received a full year of education.
Want an escape from the pre-holiday ramp-up? Try "Fortunately, The Milk" by Neil Gaiman. Need something to distract the kids on Christmas Day when they're bored with all the electronics and you need a break from the noise? Give them "The Goods" by McSweeney's. Done with those long dark hours between when the kids get off the bus and dinnertime? Check out "Brief Thief" by Michael Escoffier. Just don't give your kids "Sophie's Squash" and then invite them to help you make butternut squash soup. Consider yourself warned. Want to help your kids learn about the world around them? Try "Mamoko" or "Maps" by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. And if you're looking for a story that captures the hope and beauty of the season, make sure to include "Bluebird" by Bob Staake in your bedtime routine. Just make sure to keep the tissues handy.