Reading and Curricular Suggestions & Links as the school year begins

Wisconsin Reading Coalition via a kind email:

With the beginning of a new school year, here is some timely information and inspiration.

You can make a difference: At WRC, we are often focused on top-down systemic change that can improve reading outcomes for students across our state. However, bottom-up, individual efforts are equally important. A letter from Colin Powell, Alma Powell, and Laysha Ward in the Washington Post reminds us that as individuals we can be part of the solution. “Imagine that you have an envelope beneath your chair, containing the name of a child in need and within your reach. He or she is heading back to school now but is at risk of not finishing. There are students like this in every community across the country, just waiting for someone to connect with them. This school year, we challenge you to find your Nico Rodriguez: Reach out directly to your local school, parent-teacher association or a relevant nonprofit with an offer to volunteer. . . Whatever path you choose, know that everybody can do something, starting today.” If you are in the Milwaukee area, please consider volunteering for one of the reading tutor pilots through Milwaukee Succeeds. We at WRC have a personal investment in programs at St. Catherine’s School at 51st and Center and Northwest Catholic School at 41st and Good Hope. With as little as an hour a week, you can participate in providing Orton-Gillingham-based intervention to struggling K5-2 students. Contact Audra Brennan at 414-336-7038, or

​Adult literacy issues: In his recent article, Time to knock out illiteracy, James Causey of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlighted the reading difficulties of boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, and suggested that Mayweather address his reading issues and become a “better role model for black boys across America, who have the worst reading scores of any group in the nation.” Rapper 50 Cent and disc jockey Charlamagne Tha God have publicly humiliated Mayweather by pointing out his reading difficulties. Causey states: “It’s hard to feel sorry for Mayweather because he loves playing the bad guy in the ring and he’s made enough money to afford the best tutors and educators in the world. Which begs the questions, why hasn’t he learned to read yet?” Mary McFadden, a Milwaukee adult basic education tutor, responded in an opinion comment: “I can think of a few reasons. Reading difficulties are not the result of a lack of intelligence or a lack of effort. Unfortunately, effective programs for adults with learning disabilities or learning challenges are available but not very prevalent. Also, seeking help means having to tell someone you have a problem, which is difficult for many people. . . . I believe that greater pressure should be applied to 50 Cent to become a role model by educating himself on learning disabilities, apologizing for his cruel behavior and encouraging people to celebrate each other’s strengths while showing empathy and compassion as we all struggle with our weaknesses.”

You can’t learn if you’re not there: Wisconsin Superintendent Tony Evers sent some important information to school principals concerning the importance of student attendance, particularly in the early years of school. Resources and strategies for improving attendance are included. “The evidence from Wisconsin is irrefutable: students with good attendance in Kindergarten through Grade 2 have higher rates of reading and math proficiency in later grades. Good attendance in the early years also predicts good attendance rates throughout a student’s K-12 education. Data reveal that repeated early absence has negative educational implications for children.”

Setting the bar on Smarter Balanced assessment: Anyone with opinions on appropriate and fair cut scores for the upcoming Smarter Balanced assessments may participate in the achievement level setting process. An online national panel requires just three hours over two days during a window from October 6 through 17. Don’t complain if you don’t participate. Click here to register.

A win for the good guys: The Federal Trade Commission recently announced a settlement of its action against Infant Learning, Inc. and its owner for false educational claims related to its “Your Baby Can Read” product. The final order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California imposes monetary judgements exceeding $185 million, which will be suspended after the owner pays $300,000. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Focus on dyslexia: Wisconsin FACETS offers a free telephone workshop on September 24 from 12-1 PM. The program, titled “Red Flags of a Struggling Reader,” will be presented by Cheryl Ward. Register online at, or contact Sandra McFarland at 877-374-0511 or Also, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), has dyslexia basics, a free dyslexia toolkit, top 10 resources, and more on its website. A video on the dyslexic brain is also available.

It’s a big job: Lest we forget, effective reading intervention is not an easy or quick fix, particularly when begun at third grade or later. A recent New York Times article discusses the third-grade retention movement in multiple states, and the summer school programs that are seeking to avoid that outcome for students. It highlights the importance of teaching reading the right way from the start, and intervening early when problems surface. (Note: you may have to close numerous pop-up windows to read this article.)

Literate Nation Virtual Boot Camp: The Literate Nation organization will offer a free virtual boot camp on how to create literacy change in your community. This is a live webcast of a 1-1/2 day event in Denver, CO, that runs from Saturday, October 18 through Sunday, October 19. Participate individually or form your own group. Click here to register.