Start with the Why

In 2009, Simon Sinek made the bold assertion that everyone has a why, and great leaders know why they do what they do, not just how they do it. Sinek claims that knowing our why allows us to make choices that lead us to greater fulfillment in all that we do.

Interestingly, it turns out that the why is just as important in teaching and learning—specifically, helping students get more out of the stories they read.

Teachers have been using literature to convey moral anecdotes to students since the inception of schooling. However, research has shown that early learners often focus more on the details rather than the overarching theme, and miss the story’s moral. In a recent study, "Explaining the Moral of the Story," published in the Journal of Cognition (Walker, 2017), researchers found that by simply asking students why questions, teachers can help learners tease out broader meaning from a story, such as the moral.

Using two different experiments, the study’s findings demonstrated that prompts to explain aspects of a story enable children’s ability to move beyond surface features, and conceptualize the underlying moral. These findings can have a wide-ranging impact on comprehension and abstract reasoning in early childhood.

Caren Walker (the study’s author) notes that what we have learned and observed from developmental psychology over the years is that what children fail to do is not a failure of competence, but rather, a difference in where their attention is directed. In other words, when we redirect their attention to different types of information, children can do a surprising amount of things we didn’t think they could.

The idea of redirecting to different types of information with the ultimate goal of reading reminds me of Kylene Beers and Robert Probst’s innovative work in Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (2017). Through their Book, Head, Heart (BHH) Framework, Beers and Probst advocate for helping students understand the potential power of a text in their own lives—the power of connection. If we help students understand the why of a story, in turn, they are able to make connections to their own lives, and other stories, ultimately achieving the highest level of comprehension.

Walker found that children who had been prompted to explain a story performed significantly better on reading tasks than the group who had just been asked to report on events that happened. Explaining a story facilitates abstraction and generalization of moral lessons, while reporting concentrates attention to facts and details that might not support comprehension and understanding.

For so long, we have focused our teaching efforts on fluency, decoding, and extracting data like names, dates, and other key character details, that students have missed the opportunity to understand why the author told the story, and its relevance to their own lives and community.

If educators actively engage students in the process of reading by asking why questions to support connections beyond the text, students’ comprehension will be broader and deeper.

Many students enter school with the longing and passion to read, a passion which can dissipate as years go on. As Beers and Probst note in Disrupting Thinking, “too many students still seem to think of books as burdens placed upon them, rather than invitations to experience new thoughts." (p. 56) When we move beyond the surface details of a text, we can start to understand the why behind actions of the heroes and heroines of the stories we love, and wonder how reading will change us.

Isn’t that what the joy and power of reading is all about?

 

The impact of hunger on achievement, & addressing lunch-shaming

Below are a few education stories I've bookmarked recently.

Last week we published "When Hunger Is an Equity Issue," from Andy Kubas, Executive Director of Learning Supports in Bloomington, MN. As an elementary school principal some years earlier, Andy had discovered through talking with a student, that the student's behavioral problems were largely connected to hunger. He then created a food pantry in his school, working with families and community partners to address this major barrier to learning.

Related: NPR took a look at new research on the possible connection between food stamp administration schedule and academic performance. In short, researchers "find that children who come from families that are several weeks removed from receiving their food-stamp benefits perform worse on an important math exam."

New York City announced at the beginning of the school year that all NYC schoolchildren now have access to free lunch. This move was in response to the increased attention that the practice of "lunch shaming" is receiving nationwide. Kei-Sygh Thomas at The 74 looks at New York City and other states' responses.

A different approach: District Administration shared a local news story about a Columbia, MO school district that plans to "go after" parents who don't pay for their children's school lunch. (Possible solutions include small claims court.) The school board president: "When it first caught our attention, we started to think about ways to maybe punish the kids if you would, to try to get them to start paying or parents to start paying, and then some community members spoke up and said, 'We shouldn't be punishing the kids, you should be punishing the parents that are not paying.'"

 

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Resources for talking to students about tragedy

With the Las Vegas tragedy on our minds, we know that there may be impossible conversations happening in classrooms nationwide in days and weeks to come.

No matter where you reside, it's likely that students will see the news headlines on television and online. For age-appropriate news articles about the event, there's Junior Scholastic (for middle schoolers) and the New York Times Upfront (for high schoolers).

Scholastic.com also has Resources for Responding to Tragedy and Violence, for educators in grades preK-12

You may also want to support the families in your school community as they have similar difficult conversations at home. We suggest Three Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Scary News

Our hearts go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy.

When Hunger Is an Equity Issue

"I'm Hungry"

I first made the connection between hunger and academic achievement when I was principal at Valley View Elementary School in Bloomington, MN. I got a call from one of my third-grade teachers about a student who was acting up and disrupting class. The boy sat in my office, and I asked him what was going on. After some time, he said, “I’m hungry. All we had was bread this morning, and my mom saves the ends for my baby sister.” I realized that what I was dealing with was not a discipline issue, but an equity issue

This was not my first experience with hunger. I myself had grown up in an unsettled home where access to food was often an issue. I moved a lot, and went to many different schools as a child. Ultimately, I became a teacher, and later principal, in high-poverty schools because those were the communities I felt I needed to serve. That Monday morning conversation was a pivotal moment for me: I realized not only that there was a direct connection between hunger and a child’s ability to be present and ready to learn, but that I was in a position to provide resources to help.

Barriers to learning

Eighty-eight percent of the student population at Valley View was eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, so I knew that while I had one child sitting in front of me who was experiencing significant barriers to learning, I also had a school full of children who were possibly struggling with similar issues. This particular third-grade boy was sent to me by his teacher, but I knew that for the larger community, I had to be proactive about addressing these barriers, not wait for signs of disengagement.

Obviously, as educators, it is not our job to solve world hunger, but when it comes to a barrier to learning, it is our job to help students arrive in school each day ready to learn. And this is a nationwide issue: research has shown that 85% of principals have students who are coming to school hungry; this percentage becomes 90% in high-poverty schools.

Meeting the need

At Valley View, we formed a partnership with a local church that ran a food shelf. The church had relationships with suppliers, and agreed to send a portion of their food to Valley View. We knew it was important to try to provide food that was appropriate for our school population, so we made sure we had the hominy, corn and beans that our students would eat. We asked our Muslim and Hispanic families what they want. After doing our due diligence, we worked with the church to come up with meals that a kid could put together without much prep or cooking.

Next, we set up a repository by the school kitchen, where kids could go and pick up food that was packed in backpacks, ready to go. We had the Bloomington health department inspect the pantry so that we knew this service was up to code and approved at every level.

We shared this with the school community by talking to families at our Family Academy. It was important to us to make sure that making the choice to use the food closet was one that a family would make among themselves. As a school, we provided the opportunity, but also wanted to be discreet and respectful of our families’ needs.

In terms of assessing the success of the program, our best method was to take inventory of how much food was going out each week. There were times when it was gangbusters, and times when it was slow. We analyzed patterns to identify peak times, and found that the need was greatest on Fridays and just before holidays, when kids would be out of school for extended periods of time.

A scalable model

After Valley View’s program had been in place for some time, other schools that were experiencing similar issues set up their own programs. We saw that hunger was an issue across Bloomington, regardless of neighborhood. At that point I had just begun to move to the district office for Bloomington Public Schools, and we knew we needed to make sure that all sites were following the appropriate steps to follow insurance and health code approvals. 

So we brought all ten of our elementary schools together in order to ensure each site was adhering to the same parameters, and that everyone was protected. We also wanted to streamline procedures, and centralize our relationships with community partners we were working with. As a group, we brought in faith-based organizations that were able to supply food and backpacks, and help with menus. We’ve worked closely with The Sheridan Story and Volunteers Enlisted to Help People (VEAP) to accomplish our goals.

What’s next

We are working within the state’s new wellness policy. We have refined our beliefs and improved our health practices in Bloomington schools. The scope of the policy extends beyond the food closet to impact our practices on many different levels—for example, we’re considering alternatives to the practice of bringing in cupcakes to celebrate birthdays. In this coming year, we will implement our new thinking, which will have an impact on how we deliver food in the upcoming school year.

If you’re wondering about the third grader I mentioned earlier, it is a hard truth of this work that we don’t always have a neat ending to every story. That particular student moved out of our district—a migratory existence is the reality for much of our student population. As an educator, my mission is to look within my school community and identify the barriers to learning that are particular to the students I serve. Then I can work with community partners to address their needs. As I said before, I can’t solve world hunger, but I can help our students arrive each day, ready to learn.

How We Train, Retain and Set Expectations for Teachers

Below are a few education stories I've bookmarked recently.

“It’s very difficult to change student learning if we are not changing adult learning,” says Paul Fleming, of the Tennessee education department, in a recent article in District Administration about new approaches to teachers' professional learning.

Tennessee and other states are using a personalized approach to PD that is collaborative, and measures success based on the acquisition of new skills and ways of thinking rather than hours spent in lectures.

Districts nationwide continue to grapple with not only how to prepare teachers and provide effective professional development, but also how to measure success, and to do so in a way that is equitable for both students and teachers.

In Chalkbeat, Matt Barnum explores the case of one teacher in Baltimore who earned the highest-possible rating on her evaluation, but stands to lose her certification due to low scores on the math portion of her certification. The article calls into question the current certification process and its impact on recruiting and retaining oustanding teachers. Especially in underserved communities.

Finally, the video below (from Vox in 2014) turned up in my Facebook newsfeed earlier this week, and it's certainly a conversation starter. Dana Goldstein (The Teacher Wars) says, "We need to address making the job an attractive job more than we need to focus on things like telling teachers they can trump poverty."

In a world where teachers are often asked to be all things to all people (and, given the above Chalkbeat reporting, are themselves often part of questions around inequity), what do you think of Goldstein's argument?

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Cultivating a Culturally Responsive Classroom Community

Launching a magnificent school year begins with cultivating a strong sense of community with the students at your school. Establishing a culturally responsive culture is not just the responsibility of the teachers in the classroom, school leaders should also communicate that this is a priority and support each teachers’ efforts. Classroom community ultimately reflects beliefs about how students should experience learning—and it is an immense feat to get a group of wonderfully diverse students with unique cultures, identities, passions, talents, and needs to learn and thrive together. 

Productive, culturally responsive classroom learning communities produce collective agreements about the values, relationships and behaviors that best serve the learning goals of all students and are cultivated throughout the year. Below are suggestions for how teachers can approach establishing an effective culturally responsive culture in the classroom—efforts school leaders should support and encourage, as well as mirror in their own interactions with staff. 

Start with Relationships, Trust and Rapport

Building trust and rapport with each student individually is one of the first things to consider when building a culturally responsive classroom community. As humans, we are all dependent on the quality and depth of our relationships. This is especially true for students, since most must navigate multiple relationships in and outside of school with varying levels of depth. Building trust and rapport, then, should serve as a teacher’s top priority at the beginning of the school year. 

Getting to know who your students are as individuals is one of the hallmarks of a culturally responsive classroom community. Understanding the cultural, academic, linguistic and social identities of your students comes through deep, authentic connections and relationships. This type of relationship building can feel risky at times since building a deep level of trust and rapport with students can push us personally to places of vulnerability. 

But it’s critical to remember that students have to believe their teacher cares about them. Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain (2015), shares that “We have to not only care about students in a general sense, but also actively care for them in a physical and emotional sense.” When teachers authentically and consistently demonstrate caring behaviors toward their students, the critical trust that builds relationships grows, as does the culturally responsive classroom community. 

Tips for Practice

  • Be a storyteller. Incorporate your story and the stories of students into the life of the classroom. Create ways for you and your students to express individual identities and share personal experiences.

  • Model active, authentic listening. Listening conveys a sense of respect that is essential to building trust and expresses to students your deep interest in who they are and what they have to share.

  • Demonstrate acts of caring. Collectively decide as a class community what it looks like and sounds like to care for and about each other—then do it.

  • Be transparent about your desire to get to know students individually. Tell them your aim is to build trust and rapport as a classroom community.

Build Shared Agreements

Clear agreements or expectations coupled with supporting routines, processes and structures will help students make sense of a culturally responsive learning community and navigate it with confidence and ownership. Because shared agreements build community, the process for developing them should rely heavily on student voice and input. The process should be facilitated in a way that ensures all students can contribute.  

In preparing for the process, teachers should give attention to the specific social, emotional, and cognitive growth and development goals for all students in the classroom. For example, what essential thinking routines will students need in order to engage in deep learning? How will students work together in different grouping structures (whole group, small group, individually)? How should whole group dialogue look and sound?

Tips for Practice

  • Utilize free resources about developing classroom agreements, such as this blog post from Wendy Ward Hoffer, PEBC Education Senior Director, which provides sample agreements: Build Community with Shared Agreements.

  • After co-creating the shared agreements, visually display them throughout the classroom.

  • Engage in periodic classroom rituals such as connection circles, morning meetings or afternoon huddles focused on how well the class is demonstrating the agreements.

  • Co-create a metaphor for a culturally responsive classroom community with your students. Metaphors cause us to think differently and deeper about a concept. They also create greater clarity and can serve as a powerful reminder and barometer for your classroom community throughout the school year.

Building relationships, trust and rapport with students one-on-one can remove educators from their comfort zone, and they should be supported in establishing authentic connections. Likewise, shared agreements built for individual classrooms should mirror efforts to build collective agreements between school leadership and staff. Both actions are important first steps in creating a culturally responsive environment in your school. Doing so takes effort, and every member of your team—from teachers, leadership, instructional coaches and more—has a role to play. 

Two Ways to Support a Learning Community

As a new school year begins, of course we wish that all children could walk into the classroom each day ready to learn. In an ideal world, our classrooms are populated by children who are well-rested, well-fed and have everything they need to reach their full academic potential.

The reality, as we know, is quite different. Data from Scholastic’s Teacher & Principal School Report: Equity in Education reveals that principals and teachers nationwide believe that equity in education should be a national priority. But the majority of educators say that many of their students face barriers to learning from outside the school environment. These barriers are prevalent across poverty levels, including 66% of educators in low-poverty schools. This means that every morning, our teachers work with children who might be facing family or personal crisis, need mental health services, are living in poverty, or are homeless or hungry. Providing equitable educational opportunities for our students is a complex challenge.

This striking data highlights the need for schools to support students beyond providing instruction.

One thing we can do right away is to actively foster a community of readers that learns about the world and each other through books. Carefully selected read-alouds can support social-emotional learning in every grade. When teachers read aloud, they can introduce new concepts with support, engage in conversation and dialogue, and provide students with prompts for response writing.

Below are selections that teachers can read with students to support social-emotional learning:

Kindergarten: Llama Llama, Mad at Mama; My Brother Charlie; Clifford’s Good Deeds: Be Responsible

1st Grade: Clifford the Firehouse Dog; I Read Signs; Officer Buckle and Gloria

2nd Grade: The Bully from the Black Lagoon; A Bad Case of Stripes; Giraffes Can’t Dance

3rd Grade: Common Ground, The Water, Earth, and Air We Share; Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot; Double Team

4th Grade: The Hero Two Doors Down; Thank You, Mr. Falker; Flora & Ulysses

5th Grade: The Survival Guide to Bullying; Drita, My Homegirl; Climate Change

We, as educators, are important members of the learning community. And as we support students, we must also continue to learn ourselves so that we can meet our challenges head-on. The Teacher & Principal School Report revealed that 97% of teachers and 100% of principals want effective, ongoing, relevant professional development. Among the areas in which both principals and teachers want PD are to gain strategies for working with families, provide support for students in crisis and strategies for develop a positive school culture and climate.

This school year, we must remember that our students come to us carrying more than just their books and backpacks. It is up to us engage in active learning as well, so that together we can work to help all children achieve academic success. 

Meriden Public Schools: Here, Students Succeed

Several years ago, Meriden Public Schools faced troubling academic results, low graduation rates, and high suspensions, expulsions, and arrests. Most students come from minority backgrounds and more than 70% qualify for free or reduced-price meals. The district needed a new philosophy—a new approach. We had to make sure that students were at the center of all our decisions.

Transformation to student-centered learning environments required a shift in culture, curriculum and instruction. The district knew that achieving equity for all students required additional support, as well as rigorous content. The goal was to better prepare all graduates to be college, career, and civic ready. The district implemented student-centered learning, opened access to Advanced Placement and all higher level courses, implemented a one-to-one program, expanded learning time schools, and offered numerous enrichment and credit earning opportunities.

Our Student-Centered Learning Approach

Leveraging our collaborative relationship with our teachers union and partnering with the Nellie Mae Education Foundation provided the Meriden Public Schools with the impetus to begin our change process. Professional learning for our staff, coupled with research on the importance of challenging all students, were essential components in our student-centered approach. By utilizing grant funding to add support staff from our current teacher ranks, teachers would not only hear about student-centered learning, they would see it in action, and receive support as they began to create flexible learning environments.

Creating student-centered learning environments started for us by increasing academic rigor for all students and developing a growth mindset with students and staff. We gave students greater choice and voice in their learning and supported staff as they personalized and blended their instruction. Collapsing levels, eliminating course prerequisites, adopting no zero grading policies, and assuring that curriculum was implemented with fidelity were our first steps on the student-centered learning journey. In addition, learning environments were no longer simply rows of desks, but flexible learning spaces that support personalization of learning.

Our Digital Transformation

With no district-issued device, and facing restrictive technology use policies, we knew that we had to garner buy-in from all stakeholders if we were going to successfully launch a digital transformation. Bring Your Own Device guidelines and one-to-one district-issued devices were essential in our digital transformation. Devices alone are useless if there is not digital content in place to personalize and differentiate the learning for students, so we partnered with digital content providers to support our students. These partnerships provide greater opportunities for equity for all students and professional learning for our teachers. Through the use of digital content, our students are now being challenged at their own academic level and they are accessing learning opportunities anytime, anywhere.

Our Expanded Learning Opportunities

Today's students need to learn more and teachers and educators often feel there is not enough time in the day to meet these growing demands. To address this challenge, Meriden Public Schools offers: three expanded-day elementary schools, where all students attend 100 minutes more per day—equaling over 40 additional schools days; STEM academies and enrichment courses on Saturday mornings at our local community college; summer online learning credit opportunities; personalized learning experiences that are designed by students themselves, and teacher-facilitated summer experiences to ensure that all elementary students are reading on grade level.

The summer program is celebrated with a Scholastic read-aloud where students receive a book bag filled with Scholastic books that they will see in their classrooms in the fall. In the Meriden Public Schools, learning is encouraged outside the walls of our classrooms. Our Family School Liaison Team supports our parent engagement efforts by sponsoring our Celebration of Readers each spring. Family literacy nights and One School, One Book foster the love of reading, and encourage parent/guardian involvement.

Our Results

Along with growing academic success and greater student and staff satisfaction, suspensions have decreased by 78%, expulsions by 91% and arrests by 92% since 2011. The Meriden Public Schools is creating schools where students succeed. The district has achieved some of its highest scores in history on the Smarter Balance Assessments and PSATs. These positive trends validate our efforts and we are excited about tomorrow's possibilities.

 

 

The Gallup Survey, Dear America, SEL and Leading and Learning

Below are a few education stories I've bookmarked recently.

Last week Scholastic Education's CAO Michael Haggen wrote in a back-to-school message that it is imperative for educators (and families) to read widely with children, so that as a community we can all work to understand the world we live in.

He wrote, "Those of us who spend our days helping kids navigate the world must establish a powerful community of readers and learners so that we all may be informed citizens."

Yesterday The Atlantic published Dear America: Reading Through History by Amy Weiss-Meyer, who describes her experience as a New York City elementary school student on September 11, 2001. Not long afer, she discovered the Dear America series, and dove in to the world of historical fiction. "Dear America was, on some level, a comforting reminder that I was not the first, nor would I be the last, to live through history in the messy, unfolding present."

Speaking of helping children navigate the world, 2015 Washington State Teacher of the Year Lyon Terry argues in EdWeek in Social-Emotional Skills Should Be an Integral Part of Every Lesson We Teach  that social-emotional learning must be integrated into learning, not viewed as a separate add-on: "Integrating social and emotional skills with our content lessons helps our students see others as thoughtful, engaged people. These skills give them the ability to interact, create knowledge together, and understand an individual's role in group dynamics. Social and emotional skills are also the roots of love and empathy, emotions that are needed today more than ever."

On HuffPo, Chris Minnich (Council of Chief State School Officers) and Deborah Delisle (ASCD) write in Learning and Leading: Giving power to the professionals to learn and lead together that "teachers are lifelong learners and need to be supported through each stage of their careers. Most importantly, we recognize that one of their most powerful learning endeavors is when educators connect and learn from one another."

Finally, The Gallup 2017 Survey of K-12 School District Superintendents. Of note: Superintendents say that "their district's greatest challenges are helping students whose circumstances affect their achievement and dealing with budget shortfalls."

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What I Want the World to Know About Reading in My Country: International Literacy Day

Today, September 8, 2017, is International Literacy Day, when governments, organizations, and communities around the world recognize and celebrate the magic of books and reading.

This year we checked in with Scholastic International: David Peagram (Australia), Nancy Pearson (Canada), Neeraj Jain (India), Amanda Clarke (United Arab Emirates), Catherine Bell (United Kingdom) and Michael Haggen (United States).

We asked two questions: 

  • What do you want the world to know about reading in your country?
  • What is your favorite children's book?

Their thoughtful replies are below (nearly everyone was reluctant to commit to just one favorite children's book!).

Australia: David Peagram (Managing Director, Scholastic Australia & New Zealand)

The Australian Curriculum says: Australia is a linguistically and culturally diverse country, with participation in many aspects of Australian life dependent on effective communication and literacy. Australians pedestal the development of reading and literacy as gateway skills, essential in helping young people develop the knowledge and skills needed for almost every aspect of adult life. We believe it helps them become ethical, thoughtful, informed and active members of society.

Literacy plays a most important part in developing the understanding, attitudes and capabilities of those who will take responsibility for Australia’s future. Reading paves the critical paths for literacy and the intellectual growth of all young Australians.

Scholastic Australia agrees: we love reading! Whether it be reading aloud or reading together or reading all by ourselves, tucked into a corner nook – reading is our favourite activity, from the beaches of Sydney to the deserts of Perth and everywhere in between.

Favourite children's book: Possum Magic (Mem Fox)—still in the Australian top ten of all time after 34 years!

Canada: Nancy Pearson (President, Scholastic Canada)

Scholastic Canada recently published its first Kids and Family Reading Report™, and it revealed a fascinating portrait of reading in this country. We can confirm: all ages of Canadians love to read, in both official languages–English and French.

They also view reading as the number one habit that impacts future success. Canadians value humour and personal choice when it comes to reading. Humour has been one of our greatest exports for so long, we’re delighted to see it’s still a priority for our youngest readers! Although this wasn’t revealed in our report, I think it’s safe to say our long winters have shaped us to enjoy curling up indoors with a good book, or perhaps that’s just me…

One of my absolute favourites was a book called From Anna, which recently celebrated its 45th year in publication. Author Jean Little is a national treasure, who has been decorated with every known award for her groundbreaking storytelling—a feat that is amplified by the fact that she’s been legally blind for most of her life.

But for me, this story about a young girl whose family moves from Nazi Germany to Canada in the 1930s, was my first understanding of books set in Canada, with references that I understood. And it’s also the most beautiful portrait of young girl dealing with loneliness, and the enormous challenges of integration. Prescient topics that are so timely today.

India: Neeraj Jain (Managing Director at Scholastic India)

India has always had a rich heritage of storytelling, from being a medium of passing down ancient religious wisdom of the vedas and the upanishads (before they were finally written down as texts) to a grandmother telling her grandchildren about the adventures of her childhood. With time, we saw an increase in the number of nuclear families and decrease in storytelling. Storybooks and read-aloud are slowly starting to bridge this gap, with families increasingly understanding the importance of read-aloud and picture books. While reading time continues to compete against screen time and play time, yet we see an upward trend in the reading habits of children in India.

It's very difficult to pick a favourite children's book. As a child, I loved a comic book series called Chacha Chaudhary. It revolved around two main characters: Chacha Chaudhary, who could think faster than a computer; and Sabu the super-powerful giant from Jupiter. This series had everything, super powers, aliens and action coupled with a quirky sense of humour and bizarre situations.

One of my favourites currently is The Bad Guys. Aaron Blabey has chosen a unique and interesting set of characters who are always on a mission to help people thereby trying to fight their ill-reputed image of being bad guys. It makes you laugh out loud and at the same time keeps you on the edge to know what happens next.

United Arab Emirates: Amanda Clarke (Sales Director, Scholastic Middle East & Africa)

Last year was the ‘Year of Reading’ in the UAE, so there is a huge focus on reading. Scholastic ran a competition for whole year, giving away over 40,000 books. So I think we have contributed a lot to the love of reading in the UAE.

It’s so difficult to choose one book!! Can I choose a series? I love, love, love the Defender of the Realm series by Mark Huckerby and Nick Olster. The second book left me biting my nails in anguish—I cannot wait for the third book.

I also have a favorite picture book called Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy, which is a fantastic book about a mummy elephant trying to get just five minutes peace from her hectic family. In the end she gets just under two. It’s such a great, funny picture book.

United Kingdom: Catherine Bell (Managing Director, Scholastic UK)

Children in the United Kingdom love reading. The children’s book market has grown by 11.7% this year, driven by a range of wonderful books from a host of talented authors and illustrators. 72% of schools say reading is on their school improvement programme, and over half of children 6–11 years told us that their school book fair is their number-one source for reading for pleasure.

Funny books are still the most-wanted genre by children themselves, and 49% of children say that the person who does the best job of picking books is “me.”The mix of talented writers and illustrators and such enthusiasm from children makes us very proud to support International Literacy Day celebrations.

Favourite children's book: Oh, this is too hard! If you force me I would settle on Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I loved being transported to the world of 1930s London when I read the story as a child. It was even more magical to read it out loud to my children and to delight in their enjoyment at the same world and the strong and determined Fossil sisters.

United States: Michael Haggen (Chief Academic Officer, Scholastic Education)

Now, more than ever, American educators understand the importance of our students reading more nonfiction that allows them to explore the world and learn more about others. With diverse classrooms and the English language learners population growing each year, diverse books can be used to tell a variety of stories. The Scholastic 6th Edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report found that ninety-one percent of children ages 6-17 say “my favorite books are the one that I have picked out myself.”

My favorite children’s book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. When reading this book to kindergarteners, first and second graders, we all relate to the woes of Alexander but understand tomorrow is a new day, even in Australia.

To learn more about kids' and parents' attitudes and behaviors around books and reading in Australia, Canada, India, the UK and the US, go to scholastic.com/readingreport.

Read more: Working Magic: International Literacy Day, September 8, 2016 (Lois Bridges) 

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