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    ILA Offers Guidelines for Integrating Digital Technologies Into Early Literacy Education

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Apr 23, 2019

    Although digital technologies are widely per­vasive in homes, schools, and communities, there remains little consensus about how they should be used in early childhood literacy education. A new brief released by the International Literacy Association (ILA), Digital Resources in Early Childhood Literacy Development, seeks to create a set of common guidelines for evaluating screen time.

    As the meaning of reading and writing continues to evolve, there is an urgent need to “link play and literacy to the multimodal opportunities offered by new digital media,” says ILA.

    “The wealth of often conflicting information around the use of digital tools in literacy instruction has only led to more confusion and has stirred valid concerns regarding quality, safety, and overconsumption,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Drawing on the latest research and with these concerns in mind, we created a formula for balanced technology integration.”

    The brief highlights the social and academic benefits of high-quality digital technologies, such as stronger pathways for language learning, multimodal meaning making, and home–school connections. ILA maintains that—when judiciously selected and intentionally used—digital texts and tools can build children’s literacy and communication skills while preparing them for long-term academic success.

    ILA offers four guidelines for making decisions about how best to integrate digital technologies into early childhood contexts, including blending the use of digital and nondigital resources and building home–school connections, with concrete steps for accomplishing each, such as acting as media mentors for caregivers who may not be aware of quality interactive media resources.

    Access the full brief here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily. 

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    Just for Fun

    By Skye Deiter and Carolyn Angus
     | Apr 22, 2019

    As the season of end-of-year testing and projects approaches, don’t forget to make time for “just for fun” independent reading. This week’s column includes reviews of recently published, engaging books that will set the tone for enjoyable summer reading.

    Ages 4–8

    Animalicious: A Quirky ABC Book. Anna Dewdney & Reed Duncan. Ill. Claudia Boldt. 2019. Penguin.

    Animalicious“The world is full of animals / of every single kind. / This book contains some special ones / that you won’t often find.” Young readers will have fun exploring the animal oddities in this quirky alphabet book. Colorful, cartoon portraits offer clues to understanding the nonsensical names created by clever wordplay, puns, and double entendres. For example, the letter “P” is represented by a green, pear-shaped “pearrot,” a blushing “polar bare,” and a “piethon” wrapped around the “P” with its mouth open, ready to eat the pie perched on the end of its tail. Readers will have fun deciphering some of the more challenging names, such as “macawbre” (a macaw dressed in a Poe-inspired coat).

    Bikes for Sale. Carter Higgins. Ill. Zachariah OHora. Ill. 2019. Chronicle.

    Bikes for SaleMaurice (a chipmunk) always rode his yellow bicycle around town, selling lemonade from his mobile stand. Lotta (a porcupine) always rode her red bike through the woods, collecting sticks in the basket to hand out all over town. Unfortunately, fate steps in one day for Maurice and Lotta as their bikes are wrecked in separate accidents. “But what looked like a small stick was really a smashup, and that was the end of this one...and what looked like some petals was really some peels, and that was the end of that one.” Fortunately, fate steps in once more with a chance encounter at Sid’s bike shop, where Maurice and Lotta find a bicycle built for two made from recycled parts from their wrecked ones. Young readers will enjoy this humorous tale of a serendipitous friendship as it unfolds in colorful, richly detailed acrylic illustrations.

    Flubby Is Not a Good Pet! (Flubby #1). J. E. Morris. 2019. Penguin.

    FlubbyDisappointingly, Flubby, a chubby cat with an aloof attitude, doesn’t do anything that other kids’ pets do. Flubby does not sing like Kim’s pet bird, catch a ball like Sam’s dog, or jump like Jill’s frog. Even when it begins to rain, Flubby does not heed the warning to run and slowly ambles to the house. When thunderous KA-BOOMs frighten them both, however, the young narrator adds, “But he needs me…. And I need him,” and they cuddle up. The simple text with short, repetitive sentences and uncluttered, expressive cartoon-like illustrations make this book and simultaneously published Flubby Will Not Play with That fun-to-read fare for beginning readers.

    I’m a Baked Potato! Elise Primavera. Ill. Juana Medina. 2019. Chronicle.

    I'm a Baked PotatoReaders of all ages will get a laugh out of this endearing story with vibrant illustrations about a potato-loving lady and her cherished little brown dog named Baked Potato. One day, Baked Potato gets separated from the lady, and as he walks farther and farther searching for her, he gets lost. Along the way, Baked Potato encounters an angrybig dog who calls him a groundhog and a hungry fox who sees him as a yummy bunny. These responses to his pleas for help leave poor Baked Potato questioning his identity. Is he a baked potato? A groundhog? A bunny rabbit? Finally, a wise owl helps Baked Potato discover his true self as a dog who can use his keen sense of smell to find his way back home.

    Most Marshmallows. Rowboat Watkins. 2019. Chronicle.

    Most MarshmallowsMost marshmallows settle for ordinary lives of watching TV, eating dinner with their families, and falling asleep to dreams of nothing. These marshmallows go to school to learn to be squishy, to stand in rows, and to not breathe fire. “But some marshmallows / somehow secretly know / that all marshmallows / can do anything / or be anything / they dare to imagine.” Watkins’ humorous collage illustrations, which feature marshmallows with human-like characteristics in familiar scenes at home and school (created with construction, cardboard, and found objects), and a lyrical text offer a child-friendly message to live boldly and dream big that will stretch children’s imaginations.

    Ages 9–11

    How to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth. Paul Noth. 2019. Bloomsbury.

    How to Properly Dispose of Planet EarthEleven-year-old Happy Conklin Jr. is busy deciding how he will ask his crush, Nevada Everly, to be his lab partner at school when his lizard, Squeep!, starts bringing him shells, kazoos, and other mysterious doodads. Happy soon realizes the vanishing lizard may be using a second portal in his manic sister’s “Doorganizer,” an infinite closet powered by a black hole. Now, Happy not only must find the courage to speak to Nev but also travel through Squeep!’s portal to save planet Earth from disappearing into a black hole forever. Paul Noth’s cartoon drawings and comic-style panels add to the fun of reading this middle-grade science fiction novel. Readers will also get a kick out of How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens (2018), the first book in Paul Noth’s series.

    Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines. Sarah Aronson. Ill. Robert Neubecker. 2019. Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster.

    Just Like Rube GoldbergThis engaging picture book biography tells the life story of Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg (1883–1970), who gained recognition as a “famous inventor without ever inventing anything at all.” Young Rube loved to draw, but to please his father he studied engineering. He hated being an engineer and quit his first job with the San Francisco Department of Water and Sewers after just six months. Determined to become a newspaper cartoonist, he drew and drew until he eventually got a job as a cartoonist at the New York Evening Mail. It was his cartoons about inventions that solved problems in crazy, complicated ways—Rube Goldberg machines—that made him famous. Robert Neubecker’s full-color illustrations cleverly pay homage to Goldberg’s creativity. “The Only Sanitary Way to Lick a Postage Stamp” and seven other of Goldberg’s original black-and-white cartoons are reproduced on the endpapers. Back matter includes additional information on Goldberg’s life and work and sources.

    Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat. Johnny Marciano & Emily Chenowith. Ill. Robb Meommaerts. 2019. Penguin Workshop/Penguin.

    KlawdeWhen he’s exiled from the planet Lyttyrboks and transported across space to Earth, deposed Lord High Emperor Wyss-Kuzz vows to return and take revenge. The transported feline lands at the Bannerjee’s home in the small Oregon town of Elba where Raj, who is unhappy about the family’s move from Brooklyn, bargains with his parents to keep the fearsome cat, who’s given the name Klawde, if he attends Camp Eclipse. In alternating chapters, Klawde (who learns English and mind-melds with Raj so they can communicate) and Raj relate the events of a summer in which Klawde develops a means of teleporting back to Littyrboks and Raj struggles to survive nature camp. Klawde does successfully take off and return to Lyttyrboks and Raj completes “Camp Apocalypse” but that’s not the end of this funny sci-fi story because “the evil alien warlord cat” makes an unexpected return to Oregon. Readers can immediately read the next published volume, Enemies.

    Ages 12–14

    Bake Like a Pro! (Maker Comics). Falynn Koch. 2019. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Maker ComicsYoung wizard Sage is disappointed in her apprentice assignment with alchemist and baking master, Wizard Korian. When she ignores helpful hints from basic ingredients (they talk), misuses baking tools, and doesn’t follow the step-by-step instructions in the spell book (a recipe book), her first baking project, a classic pound cake, is a disaster. Readers learn that baking is “a tangible form of magic” by joining Sage in the enchanted kitchen to learn the science behind baking from Korian. By working along with Sage and Korian in this fun-filled, “ultimate DIY guide” with eight baking activities, readers can learn to bake like a pro. Back matter includes recipes, notes on baking methods, baking tips, conversion and measurement charts, and references. Fix a Car! is a second book in First Second’s new informational graphic novel series.

    Revenge of the EngiNerds. Jarrett Lerner. 2019. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    Revenge of the EingiNerdsIn the sequel to EngiNerds (2017),Ken, Dan, Edsley, and the other EngiNerds return to track down the last one of the food-eating, “butt-blasting” robots that presumably caused the power outage in town and led to the disappearance of all the food at Food-Plus. But when an alien-crazed girl with a suitcase of gadgets and theories on alien activity shows up, the alliance of the group quickly becomes threatened. Will Ken find the last robot in time to restore his good standing with the EngiNerds? Are aliens really to blame for the bizarre weather of late? Organized into mini chapters of two or three pages each, this sci-fi adventure will keep middle graders reading in anticipation of what wacky things will happen next.

    Ages 15+

    I Love You So Mochi. Sarah Kuhn. 2019. Scholastic.

    I Love You So MochiKimiko Nakamura, who has been accepted at a prestigious art school, seems to be on track to fulfill her artist mother’s dream of Kimi being recognized as an up-and-coming Asian American artist in the Los Angeles area, although she would rather be sewing Kimiko Originals than painting. Accepting an invitation from her estranged maternal grandparents to visit them in Japan over spring break becomes Kimiko’s means of escaping her problems. When she meets handsome Akira Okamoto (who works part time as a costumed mochi mascot to attract customers to his uncle’s mochi shop), his offer to be her guide in exploring Kyoto soon becomes a journey of self-discovery. While visiting cultural sites, eating delicious mochi, and having her new friendship blossom into a romantic relationship, she discovers that her passion for fashion design promises amazing experiences for the future. A delightfully sweet and funny novel.

    Skye Deiter is an elementary classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and a recent graduate from Pennsylvania State Harrisburg’s Masters in Literacy Education Program. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.


    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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    Composing Digital Texts With Community-Based Art

    By Katrina Kennett
     | Apr 19, 2019

    Many people find it difficult to engage with—and construct meaning from—an unfamiliar piece of art. Similarly, it can be a challenge to embrace new digital tools and use them to exercise higher-level critical thinking skills. Thinking about this complimentary puzzle, I wanted to challenge my preservice teachers to use arts and technologies to access complex ideas and think deeply about the choices they make as learners.

    As a teacher educator, I want my students to wrestle with the ambiguity of classroom practice, even as many of them demand clear-cut answers for how to teach. Posing this dilemma to Aja Sherrard, the gallerist at our university, we designed a multidisciplinary project that invited students to explore art, create a digital classroom text, and present it at a public open house event.  


    kennett-3 copyIn the fall of 2018, the University of Montana Western (UMW) hosted an exhibition titled “Watershed” by printermaker Jason Clark, an unregistered member of the Algonquin nation. Clark’s work explores “cultural issues, environmental issues, indigenous mythology and postcolonial identity” through vivid, folkloric imagery. The show’s content is not immediately understood without knowledge of local geography (e.g., the Clark Fork River), current events (specifically, the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock protests of 2016) and traditional symbols (e.g., thunder birds and water panthers).

    I brought my students to the gallery to meet with Aja, who led us through a guided discussion which included inventorying students’ immediate responses to pieces and the show’s composition as well as making conceptual leaps grounded in visual evidence.

    Students were then presented with a challenge: choose a piece of art from the show and create a digital text intended for classroom use. I encouraged them to work at the intersection of arts and technology. How could they use digital tools (iPads, Book Creator, and their own devices) to augment their future students’ understandings? How could their books capture the artist's ideas for those who aren’t able to attend the physical exhibit? In what ways would their book deepen ways of knowing, current events, and empathy?

    Students worked on their books over multiple class periods, moving to and from school iPads, their own devices, and the web-based version of Book Creator (an app for making, reading, and sharing interactive books). They captured images, made recordings, and discussed the affordances and constraints of both devices and platforms. They envisioned classroom scenarios, researched, and connected to grade-level standards appropriate for their target classroom. When they finished their digital texts, they published them on Book Creator’s website.

    The project didn’t end there, and thankfully so. In the  spirit of contributing knowledge to authentic communities, we hosted a public event in the gallery. After publishing their final book, students created a QR code, printed it out, and taped it to the back of their “teacher clipboard.” When we welcomed guests to the event, we encouraged them to use their device’s phone to scan the QR codes and discuss what they read with the author. 

    The Lucky Ones

    kennett-2 copyBecause I teach on a block schedule, with students taking one course at a time for 18 weekdays, I was able to repeat this project when teaching the course in January 2019. This time, the exhibition in our gallery was Madeline Scott’s “The Lucky Ones,” a collection of photographs that trace the arrival of Syrian refugees to the city of Boise and their subsequent settling into life in the United States. Framing the story in larger political events, key photos featured the last refugees allowed in the country before the so-called “Muslim Bans” went into effect.

    Like Clark’s show, the exhibit was designed to be more accessible to students. As an introduction to the subject matter, students attended a panel about the growing presence of refugees in Boise. Scott opened the panel, speaking about the experiences and ethical dimensions of photographing such vulnerable moments. The panel included the founder of Soft Landings Missoula, the mayor of Helena who is also a refugee, and the director of the Missoula chapter of the International Rescue Committee.  

    The students were again prompted to use the exhibit to inspire a classroom-ready digital text. Students leveraged the exhibit’s photographs as launch points for research about the process of coming to the United States as a refugee, the stories of famous refugees, and building classroom cultures that welcome students of all backgrounds. Again, my students used Book Creator to design multimodal texts, publishing the final work as a device-accessible QR code. They presented their final K–8 classroom-oriented digital texts on our final Friday, to the delight of our open house guests. Following are examples of students’ final projects:

    Apprenticing into authentic planning practices

    kennett-1Over the two iterations of this project, my students created digital texts as a way to engage deeply in community-based issues that connected to national political conversations. While making their books, they raised essential teaching questions: who am I speaking to? Why does this matter? Is what I’m sharing accurate (to whom)? What am I trying to accomplish in this lesson?

    Through publishing and speaking to their final texts, this project also provided an intentional apprenticeship into the profession. When the underclassman came to the gallery events, my students reflected with a deep sense of accomplishment about how far along in the program they realized they had come since their own EDU201 days. They saw themselves as stepping into the educational community by publishing in an online space that other educators could access. Finally, by creating a text meant for classroom use and envisioning the scenarios it could support, my preservice students were able to participate in a core practice of classroom teaching.

    Katrina Kennett is an assistant professor of education at the University of Montana Western. Her research investigates teachers’ planning practices, specifically how teachers intentionally open opportunities for student inquiry and agency through a variety of technologies. She can be found at @katrinakennett and

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Finding Family in the Community

    By Allister Chang
     | Apr 18, 2019
    chang-LTIn an episode of the This American Life public radio program called "What's Going On In There?," Ira Glass shares the story of a Chinese-American son who can't speak to his father. The father never taught his son Chinese, but the father also never learned English. This almost happened to me! My parents, aunts, and uncles had learned Chinese as children, and they thought their kids would pick up the language naturally on their own—­as they themselves had—and they spoke to me in broken English. I was developing a Chinese accent when I spoke English, and I also wasn't learning any Chinese ­until a librarian intervened. 

    After speaking with this librarian, my parents spoke to me only in Chinese, providing me an opportunity to grow up bilingual. Thinking back on my childhood, I remember many specific interventions like this one, where a kind, thoughtful, and brave educator stepped up to make an intervention that changed the course of my life. 

    I think that these kinds of transformative interventions—the ones that determine whether you'll share a common language with your own father—are possible coming only from people that you trust. As recent immigrants to the United States with limited English fluency, and an even more limited social network, knowing who to trust wasn't easy for my parents. Ads left and right promised scams. Who could we trust besides family? 

    My mother is the one who brought our local library into the family (and vice versa). As a kid, she escaped boredom by hiding in wealthier families' gardens to listen in on TV sets. When they chased her away, she read books. We would fill a bag of books for her at our local library in Maryland every week. When she finished reading every available Chinese language book in our local library system, the librarians ordered new Chinese titles. 

    We began to build trusting relationships with our local librarians, and the world opened up to us in new ways. They alerted us to scams and referred us to relevant resources that we would otherwise have never looked for. 

    We had found people who we trusted, and I am deeply grateful that we put our trust in kind people who just happened to be experts at guiding the wandering and the lost. 

    Allister Chang is a 2019 ILA 30 Under 30 honoree. Chang, the former executive director of Libraries Without Borders. is an affiliate with Harvard University's Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society, and a fellow with Voqal. a philanthropic organization that uses technology and media to advance social equity. 

    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of
    Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.
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    Resources for Celebrating National Poetry Month

    By Bailee Formon
     | Apr 17, 2019

    honoring-students-rights-to-readApril is National Poetry Month, which provides an opportunity for teachers and educators to bring poetry into the classroom and inspire students to read and experience works of poetry on their own. Since 1996, the national holiday has celebrated the contributions of poets while recognizing poetry's vital place in our culture and everyday lives. Following are resources and activities to help students get excited about poetry.

    • ILA’s Choices Reading Lists includes works of poetry chosen for children, by children.
    • This Writer’s Digest post, “The 20 Best Poems for Kids,” outlines three categories of poems (short poems, funny poems, and rhyming poems), lists popular examples of each type, and explains why they succeed with children.
    • Scholastic offers poetry-related articles, lesson plans, and blog posts that are applicable to educators of various grade levels.
    • Goodreads lists titles of popular works of poetry geared toward children. From Shel Silverstein to Dr. Seuss and Robert Louis Stevenson, the poems on this list will engage students and help them find their favorite authors. 
    • ReadWriteThink includes poetry resources in addition to lesson plans and classroom activities—organized according to grade level—that can help to get students excited about poetry.
    • Ahead of last week’s #ILAchat, Poetry, Rap, and Hip-Hop: Connecting With Students Through Rhythm and Rhyme, the ILA team rounded up a list of resources—recommended by our guest experts—for teachers to use and learn from.
    • Reading Rockets shares video interviews with renown poets as well as a collection of classroom resources, including poetry booklists, activities, and lesson plans.
    • ILA’s Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) regularly reviews works of poetry for educators in search of inspiration.
    • Edutopia’s compilation post includes resources from the web, Edutopia's most popular poetry-themed blogs, and other quick reads.

    Bailee Formon is an intern at the International Literacy Association.  

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